‘The Woman King’ Debuts For $18 Million, Leads Box Office

‘The Woman King’ Debuts For  Million, Leads Box Office

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“The Woman King,” a historic action epic starring Viola Davis, reigned supreme on the domestic box office charts in its opening weekend.

Buoyed by great reviews and positive word of mouth, the film collected $19 million from 3,765 North American theaters over the weekend, meeting higher expectations. Independent tracking services predicted that “The Woman King” would start at $15 million to $18 million, while Sony estimated a debut closer to $12 million.

Sony is lucky that the film has exceeded its ultra-conservative predictions. “The Woman King” cost $50 million to produce, not counting the tens of millions in marketing costs, including a stop at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “The Woman King,” which tells the true story of the all-female warrior unit known as the Agojie, who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries. The audience was receptive and awarded the film a rare “A+” CinemaScore.

As expected, the majority of the opening weekend crowds were female, with 60% of ticket buyers accounting for women between Friday and Sunday. Broken down by demographics, 59% of moviegoers were black, 19% were white, 12% were Hispanic, and 10% were Asian.

Given the strong reception from the initial crowds, box office analysts believe “The Woman King” will have a lucrative run on the big screen. It helps that there’s not much on the way in the form of competition, although Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which is also aimed at female audiences, opens on the big screen on September 23.

“Reviews are sensational,” said David A. Gross, who heads the film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “These movies are playing for healthy multiples during their holdover weeks, and that should happen here.

“The Woman King” easily towered over the box office because not many other high-profile movies were in theaters.

Also new to movie theaters, Searchlight’s curiously under-the-radar murder mystery “See How They Run,” starring Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan, opened in third place with $3.1 million from 2,400 North American theaters.

The only other film to premiere nationwide, A24’s horror sequel “Pearl” took fourth place with $3.13 million in 2,934 locations. That ticket sales mark a drop from its predecessor, director Ti West’s “X,” which debuted to $4.2 million in March and finished its theatrical run at $11 million.

A24 doesn’t care that “Pearl” might fall short of “X” at the register; the indie company has already given the green light for a third chapter in the trilogy, “MaXXXine”, to debut in 2023. Mia Goth stars in the slasher series as the villainous X, with “Pearl” being an origin story about the oppressed antihero.

“‘Pearl’ and ‘X’ are low-budget, well-reviewed, indie pictures – produced, written, directed and edited by Ti West — that shouldn’t fit a studio release,” Gross says.

Two remaining titles, Airbnb-enabled chiller “Barbarian” and Brad Pitt’s action thriller “Bullet Train,” rounded out the top five.

“Barbarian,” which took the No. 1 spot last weekend, slipped into second place with $6.3 million from 2,340 locations in its sophomore year. It dropped just 42% from its $10 million debut, an exceptionally strong position for a low-budget horror film. So far, “Barbarian” has grossed a solid $20.9 million at the domestic box office.

In fifth place, “Bullet Train” made $2.5 million from 2,602 theaters in its seventh weekend of release. A mainstay throughout the fall, the film is approaching $100 million in North America, with ticket sales reaching $96 million.

Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” topped the top five of the domestic box office charts for the second time in 17 weeks. Tom Cruise’s enduring blockbuster sequel added $2.18 million from 2,604 locations over the weekend, pushing ticket sales in North America to $709 million.

Overall, it’s been a dismal drop at the box office, with ticket sales down about 55% compared to 2019. That’s mostly because studios haven’t released movies from major franchises. The next potential blockbuster(s) come in “Black Adam” (October 21), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (November 11), and “Avatar: The Way of Water” (December 16).

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Gross says, “but right now the tide is out.”

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