‘The Woman King’ Leads Box Office With $19 Million Debut

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The Woman King‘, an historical action-epic starring Viola Davisruled the domestic box office charts during its opening weekend.

Buoyed by rave reviews and positive word of mouth, the film grossed $19 million from 3,765 North American theaters over the weekend, exceeding expectations. Independent tracking services projected “The Woman King” to launch at $15 million to $18 million Sony estimated a debut closer to $12 million.

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It’s a good thing the film surpassed Sony’s ultra-conservative projections, as The Woman King cost $50 million to produce, excluding tens of millions of dollars in marketing spend, including a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was co-financed by eOne.

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

As expected, the majority of viewers over the opening weekend were female, with women accounting for 61% of ticket buyers between Friday and Sunday. Broken down by population, 60% of moviegoers were Black, 19% Caucasian, 11% Hispanic, and 10% Asian.

Given the strong reception from the initial crowds, box office analysts believe The Woman King will enjoy a lucrative run on the big screen. It helps that there’s not much competition, although Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, which also caters to female audiences, hits the big screen on September 23.

“Reviews are sensational,” says David A. Gross, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. “These films play at healthy multiples during their bridging weeks and that should be happening here.

“The Woman King” topped the box office easily because there weren’t many other high-profile films that hit theaters.

New to theaters, Searchlight’s strangely hidden under-the-radar crime thriller See How They Run, starring Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan, opened in third place with $3.1 million in 2,400 North American theaters.

The only other film to have a national premiere, the horror sequel to A24”pearl‘ came in a close fourth with $3.1 million from 2,934 venues. Those ticket sales mark a decline from director Ti West’s predecessor, “X,” which debuted in March at $4.2 million and finished its theatrical release at $11 million.

A24 may not care that Pearl might lag behind X at the box office; The indie company has already announced a third chapter, MaXXXine, which is set for release in 2023. Mia Goth stars in multiple roles in the slasher series, with “Pearl” serving as an origin story about her downtrodden anti-hero.

“’Pearl’ and ‘X’ are inexpensive, well-reviewed indie pictures—produced, written, directed and edited by Ti West – this shouldn’t be compared to a studio release,” says Gross.

Two holdover titles, Airbnb-set chiller Barbarian and Brad Pitt’s action thriller Bullet Train, rounded out the top five.

“Barbarian,” which took first place last weekend, slipped to second place with $6.3 million from 2,340 locations in its second frame. It fell just 42% from its $10 million debut, an exceptionally powerful impact for a low-budget horror film. To date, “Barbarian” has grossed a solid $20.9 million at the domestic box office.

In fifth place, Bullet Train earned $2.5 million from 2,602 theaters in its seventh weekend of release. The film, which will be a mainstay throughout the fall, is nearing $100 million in North America with box office sales of $96 million. Bullet Train has earned $125.7 million at the international box office, bringing its worldwide tally to an impressive $222 million.

For the second time in 17 weeks, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” ended up outside the top 5 of the domestic cinema charts. Tom Cruise’s enduring blockbuster sequel added $2.18 million from 2,604 venues over the weekend, taking North American ticket sales to $709 million.

On the indie scene, Neon’s Moonage Daydream, a sort of documentary about David Bowie, cracked the top 10 while running on just 170 Imax screens. The film grossed $1.225 million over the weekend, averaging a solid $7,207 per location. Moonage Daydream, directed by Brett Morgen, will expand to approximately 600 theaters this coming weekend.

Another art house release, The Silent Twins, grossed $102,000 across 279 venues between Friday and Sunday, for a mediocre $365 per screen. Focus Features is releasing the film, which has received mixed reviews since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The real story with Letitia Wright revolves around twin sisters who only communicated with each other.

Overall, it’s been a dismal box office slump so far, with ticket sales down about 55% compared to 2019. That’s largely because the studios haven’t released movies from major franchises. The next potential blockbusters are Black Adam (Oct. 21), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Nov. 11), and Avatar: The Way of Water (Dec. 16).

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

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