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‘The Woman King’ surprises with $19 million at box office

Sept. 18, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 18, 2022 at 8:35 p.m.

Viola Davis, left, works with Gina Prince-Bythewood on the set of "The Woman King."  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
Viola Davis, left, works with Gina Prince-Bythewood on the set of "The Woman King." (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By Brooks Barnes New York Times

It doesn’t have to be all sequels and superheroes.

“The Woman King,” an original war drama starring Viola Davis, collected a strong $19 million in ticket sales for Sony Pictures Entertainment over the weekend, at least 25% more than analysts had expected. It was the best September opening for a similar film – pedigreed, awards-oriented, based on historical events – since Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” in 2016.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood from a screenplay by Dana Stevens, “The Woman King” focuses on the Agojie, an all-female warrior troop in Africa in the 1800s. The trailer and other preview materials for the film prompted calls for a boycott on social media over concerns that it glossed over or ignored aspects of the slave trade. But “The Woman King” received rapturous reviews. More important, ticket buyers gave the PG-13 movie an A-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, which bodes well for “You’ve got to go see it” word-of-mouth.

With little competition for older ticket buyers in the weeks ahead, “The Woman King” could ultimately generate in the vicinity of $100 million in the United States and Canada, box office analysts said.

“These movies play to healthy multiples during their holdover weeks,” said David Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a film consultancy.

“The Woman King” cost roughly $50 million to make, not including marketing, with Sony and eOne joining to pay for it.

About 58% of the audience for “The Woman King” was older than 35, according to Sony, with 39% older than 45. Black moviegoers made up 59% of the audience, with white ticket buyers the second-largest group.

The R-rated “Barbarian” (from 20th Century Studios, a Disney division) was second at the domestic box office over the weekend, with about $6.3 million in ticket sales, for a two-week total of $20.9 million. The low-budget slasher prequel “Pearl” (A24) arrived in third place, collecting $3.1 million.

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