THE WOMAN KING fought to a first-place finish on the North American box office charts with a healthy $19M opening weekend. This is the highest gross for a new release since BULLET TRAIN’s $30M over the weekend of August 5-7. This historical drama stars Academy Award winner Viola Davis as the leader of an all-female regiment of warriors in the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1820s.
Davis’ character General Nanisca is responsible for training the next generation of warriors to defend their homeland. This picture followed a seven-year odyssey from concept to opening, with several studios passing on it early on out of concern that the story would require a sizable investment to develop properly for the big screen but that the box office potential might be limited for a female-driven historical drama set in Africa. In the end, Sony’s TriStar Pictures stepped up with $50M to make the film.
The movie they made seems worthy of its unique subject matter, generating strong numbers on Rotten Tomatoes – 94% fresh with critics and 99% with audiences. Within this calendar year, only TOP GUN: MAVERICK is carrying better RT numbers, with 96% critics and 99% audience scores. In fact, some critics are even talking up THE WOMAN KING as a worthy contender for a Best Picture Oscar. Based on its solid start this weekend and positive word of mouth, THE WOMAN KING might remain in the top ten for the next five weeks or more until BLACK ADAM opens on October 21st.
Last week’s first-place finisher BARBARIAN came back with $6.3M, a decline of only 40% from its opening weekend. This is the best week two hold for any movie over the past two months. Now with a 10-day cume of $21M, the horror thriller is on its way to an estimated total run of $35M. With a production budget of only $10.5M, BARBARIAN will generate a handsome profit, something that very few films have accomplished this year. PEARL, A24’s prequel to the horror film X, finished in third place with $3.12M. This was followed by Searchlight’s SEE HOW THEY RUN with $3.1M and BULLET TRAIN with another $2.5M.
This week’s specialty film to watch is Neon’s MOONAGE DAYDREAM, which played in 190 locations and took in $1.2M, adding up to a solid $7,206 per theatre average. This documentary focuses on the music of David Bowie, who narrates the film himself through footage of his performances, with many clips having never been seen before. The movie has been a hit with critics, giving a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences also approved with an 85% user score. The film has the potential to reach a larger audience than this week’s limited run, but the key to a successful expansion will be how well it can maintain its per theatre average as new cities are added into the mix.