Viola Davis-Led ‘The Woman King’ Takes on Sluggish Box Office, Aims for $15 Million Debut

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Fresh off its enthusiastic world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, the Viola Davis-led historical epic “The Woman King” will touch down in 3,700 North American movie theaters over the weekend. The domestic box office desperately needs a boost, but will U.S. audiences be as receptive as festival-goers in Canada?

Touted as the real-life “Black Panther,” Sony’s “The Woman King” is aiming to collect at least $15 million in its domestic debut. Independent box office observers are optimistic that opening weekend returns could potentially reach as high as $18 million to $20 million. Sony, who co-financed the movie with eOne, is projecting $12 million, in line with 2018’s “Widows,” which also starred Davis. Replicating those ticket sales would be tepid, at best, since “The Woman King” carries a $50 million price tag.

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Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the well-reviewed “The Woman King” tells the true story of the all-female warrior unit known as the Agojie, who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. Set in the 1820s, the action drama stars Davis as a general who trains the next generation of warriors to fight their enemies. In Variety’s review, Peter Debruge called the film “compelling” and praised Davis in particular, calling it her “fiercest role yet.”

“The Woman King” is expected to lead the box office with relative ease, considering the marketplace has been desolate and only one other newcomer, A24’s horror sequel “Pearl,” is opening nationwide.

“Pearl” is aiming for low single digits when it lands in 2,900 cinemas over the weekend. It serves as director Ti West’s follow-up to “X,” which debuted in theaters earlier this year with $4.2 million. Though the film ended its box office run with just $11 million, the film appears to have resonated enough for A24 to greenlight two sequels. The indie studio announced last weekend that a third film set in the franchise, “MaXXXine,” is already in the works.

A double feature of “X” and “Pearl” is scheduled on Thursday in 140+ locations, including Alamo Drafthouse. Dubbed “An X-traordinary Origin Story,” the slasher film sees Mia Goth reprise her role as the villainous X, this time in a prequel story that explains, as Debruge puts it, “how the repressed antihero went off the rails.”

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