“The Woman King”, a historical action epic starring Viola Davis, ruled the domestic box office charts in its opening weekend.
Backed by rave reviews and positive word of mouth, the film collected $19 million from 3,765 theaters in North America over the weekend, topping expectations. Independent tracking services projected “The Woman King” to debut at $15 million to $18 million, while Sony estimated a debut closer to $12 million.
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Sony is lucky that the film exceeded its ultra-conservative forecasts. “The Woman King” cost $50 million to produce, not including thousands 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 the Agojie, who defended the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to the 19th century. It was well received by audiences, and the film was awarded a rare “A+” CinemaScore.
As expected, the majority of the opening weekend crowds were female, with 61% of ticket buyers between Friday and Sunday being female. Broken down by demographics, 60% of the filmmakers were Black, 19% Caucasian, 11% Hispanic and 10% Asian.
Given the strong opening reception, box office analysts believe that “The Woman King” will enjoy a profitable run on the big screen. It helps that there isn’t much in the way of competition, though Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which also targets female audiences, opens on the big screen on Sept. 23.
“The reviews are amazing,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “These films play to healthy multiples during their closing weeks and that should happen here.
“The Woman King” easily topped the box office charts because not many other high-profile films were playing in theaters.
New to the movie business, Searchlight’s quirky murder mystery “See How They Run,” starring Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan, opened in third place with $3.1 million from 2,400 theaters in North America.
The only other film to open nationwide, A24’s horror sequel “Pearl,” landed in a close fourth with $3.1 million from 2,934 locations. Those ticket sales represent a drop from its predecessor, Ti West’s directorial “X,” which debuted in March to $4.2 million and ended its theatrical run with $11 million.
A24 may not be interested in “Pearl” falling below “X” at the box office; the indie company has already announced a third chapter, “MaXXXine,” to begin in 2023. The slasher series stars Mia Goth in various roles, with “Pearl” as the origin story of her oppressed anti-hero.
“‘Pearl’ and ‘X’ are low-budget, well-considered indie pictures — produced, written, directed and edited by Ti West—that shouldn’t be expected to match a studio release,” says Gross.
Two standout titles, the Airbnb-set chiller “Barbarian” and the Brad Pitt action thriller “Bullet Train,” rounded out the top five.
“Barbarian,” which took the No. 1 spot, slipped. 1 last weekend, to second place with $6.3 million from 2,340 locations in its sophomore frame. It fell just 42% from its $10 million debut, a very strong hold for a low-budget horror film. To date, “Barbarian” has grossed $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 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 global tally to $222 million.
For only the second time in 17 weeks, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” landed outside the top five on the box office charts. The ongoing Tom Cruise sequel added $2.18 million from 2,604 locations over the weekend, bringing ticket sales to $709 million in North America.
On the indie scene, Neon’s “Moonage Daydream,” a documentary of sorts about David Bowie, made the top 10 playing on just 170 Imax screens. The film grossed $1.225 million over the weekend, averaging a solid $7,207 per site. “Moonage Daydream,” directed by Brett Morgen, expands next weekend to about 600 theaters.
Another art release, “The Silent Twins,” brought in $102,000 from 279 locations between Friday and Sunday, translating to $365 per screen. The film is being released by Focus Features, which has received mixed reviews since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Starring Letitia Wright, this true-life story focuses on twin sisters who have only been in contact with each other.
Overall, it’s been a terrible drop at the box office so far, with ticket sales down about 55% compared to 2019. The main reason for that is that studios aren’t releasing movies from big franchises. The next possible blockbusters will not be until “Black Adam” (October 21), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (November 11) and “Avatar: Waterway” (December 16).
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” says Gross, “but right now the tide is out.”
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