Viola Davis’ ’The Woman King’ Opens to Strong $19 Million

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Sony/TriStar/eOne’s The Woman King,” which earned some of the strongest reviews from critics and audiences of any film this year, turned that acclaim into an estimated $19 million opening weekend from 3,765 locations.

The historical epic starring Viola Davis and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood got rave reviews from critics after its Toronto Film Festival premiere with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and now it has added a 99% audience RT rating, an A+ on CinemaScore, and a stunning 95% positive rating to that list. The film was projected for a $13-16 million opening but has topped that as well as the $17 million opening of Sony’s summer release “Where the Crawdads Sing.”

The next three weekends look favorable for “The Woman King” to sustain its box office momentum with little direct competition from upcoming releases including Warner Bros’ “Don’t Worry Darling,” which has received mixed reviews, Universal’s LGBT comedy “Bros” and the Sony family film “Lyle Lyle Crocodile.”

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There won’t be a theatrical release with the sort of action and intensity that “Woman King” offers until “Halloween Ends” on Oct. 14, so it will have plenty of time to build word-of-mouth both as a female-fronted historical film among Black and female audiences and potentially as an exciting action film among crossover demographics. It will need to do so as the film still has to turn a profit against its $50 million production budget, which was co-financed by TriStar and eOne.

20th Century/New Regency’s “Barbarian” is in second this weekend with $6.3 million, giving it a total of $21 million after 10 days in theaters. “Barbarian” has shown a very strong hold for a horror film, dropping only 42% from its $10.5 million opening.

Newcomers “See How They Run” from Searchlight Pictures and “Pearl” from A24 are in a dead heat for third, with each earning a $3.1 million opening weekend. “See How They Run,” a murder mystery starring Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan, opened at 2,400 locations and has an 80% Rotten Tomatoes critics score and a B- on CinemaScore.

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“Pearl,” which opened in 2,934 locations, has a paltry $1 million budget like its predecessor, A24 and Ti West’s slasher film “X,” of which it is a prequel. While the opening for “Pearl” is below the $4.2 million opening for “X,” the new slasher series has already built a cult following with A24 announcing that a third film, “MaXXXine,” has been greenlit for a release next year.

Sony’s “Bullet Train” completes the Top 5 with $2.5 million in its seventh weekend. The $90 million action comedy has legged out to a modest profit at the box office as it approaches the $100 million domestic mark with a $96 million total.

Despite the hopeful start of “The Woman King,” overall weekend totals are still low at an estimated $51 million, down 55% from the same September weekend in 2019. But with more films coming over the next few weeks, distributors and theaters are expecting numbers to steadily increase in the lead-up to the release of the DC blockbuster “Black Adam” on Oct. 21.