‘The Woman King’ leads the Box Office with a  million debut

‘The Woman King’ leads the Box Office with a $19 million debut

“The Woman King,” a historical action epic starring Viola Davis, dominated the domestic box office charts in its opening weekend.

Buoyed by positive reviews and positive word of mouth, the film grossed $19 million from 3,765 North American theaters over the weekend, topping expectations. Independent tracking services projected “The Woman King” to open with $15 million to $18 million, while Sony estimated the debut would be closer to $12 million.

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It’s a good thing the film beat Sony’s ultra-conservative projections, as “The Woman King” cost $50 million to produce, not including tens of millions in marketing costs, 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 unit known as Agojie that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries. Audiences were receptive, awarding the film a rare “A+” CinemaScore.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of weekend viewers were women, with women accounting for 61% of ticket buyers between Friday and Sunday. Broken down by demographics, 60% of moviegoers were black, 19% were Caucasian, 11% were Hispanic, and 10% were Asian.

Given the strong reception from the initial crowds, box office analysts believe that ‘The Woman King’ will enjoy a profitable run on the big screen. It helps that there isn’t a ton on the road in the form of a competition, although Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, also aimed at a female audience, opens on the big screen on Sept. 23.

“The reviews are staggering,” says David A. Gross, who runs the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. “These films play at healthy multiples during their weeks of stay and that should happen here.

“The Woman King” easily topped the box office charts because there weren’t many other high-profile movies playing in theaters.

New to the theater scene, Searchlight’s quirky 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 open nationally, A24’s horror sequel “Pearl,” landed in fourth place with $3.1 million from 2,934 venues. Those ticket sales are down from its predecessor, director Ti West’s “X,” which debuted in March to $4.2 million and ended theaters with $11 million.

A24 may not care that “Pearl” could fall short of “X” at the box office. the independent company has already announced a third chapter, “MaXXXine,” which will debut in 2023. Mia Goth stars in the slasher series in multiple roles, with “Pearl” serving as a narrative for her downtrodden anti-hero.

“‘Pearl’ and ‘X’ Are Low-Budget, Well-Reviewed, Indie Pictures — Produced, Written, Directed and curated by Ti West — that shouldn’t be expected to match a studio release,” says Gross.

Rounding out the top five were two titles, the Airbnb chiller “Barbarian” and the Brad Pitt action thriller “Bullet Train.”

“Barbarian,” which held the No. 1 spot last weekend, slipped to second place with $6.3 million from 2,340 locations in its second frame. It fell only 42% from its $10 million debut, an extremely strong hold for a low-budget horror film. So far, “Barbarian” has collected $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. A mainstay throughout the fall, the film is approaching $100 million in North America, with ticket sales at $96 million. “Bullet Train” has earned $125.7 million at the international box office, bringing its worldwide tally to an impressive $222 million.

For only the second time in 17 weeks, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” found itself outside the top five of the domestic box office charts. The Tom Cruise sequel added $2.18 million from 2,604 venues over the weekend, bringing its North American total to $709 million.

On the indie scene, Neon’s “Moonage Daydream,” a documentary, of sorts, about David Bowie entered the top 10 while only playing on 170 Imax screens. The film grossed $1.225 million over the weekend, averaging $7.207 per location. “Moonage Daydream,” directed by Brett Morgen, expands next weekend to about 600 theaters.

Another arthouse release, “The Silent Twins,” brought in $102,000 from 279 venues between Friday and Sunday, translating to $365 per screen. Focus Features is releasing the film, which has received mixed reviews since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Starring Letitia Wright, the true story centers on twin sisters who only communicated with each other.

Overall, it’s been a dismal drop at the box office so far, with ticket sales down about 55% compared to 2019. This is mostly because studios haven’t released movies from major franchises. The next potential blockbusters won’t be until “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 out.”

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