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‘Don’t Worry Darling’ tops box office after flurry of bad press

Sept. 25, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 25, 2022 at 8:31 p.m.

From left, Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh and Sydney Chandler relax poolside in the mysterious utopia of “Don’t Worry Darling.”  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
From left, Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh and Sydney Chandler relax poolside in the mysterious utopia of “Don’t Worry Darling.” (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By Thomas Buckley Washington Post

“Don’t Worry Darling,” a thriller from director Olivia Wilde, topped the North American box office after weeks of media coverage about personal disputes among its cast drew attention to the film.

The Warner Bros. movie generated $19.2 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the weekend, researcher Comscore Inc. estimated on Sunday. That put it below the $21.6 million forecast from Boxoffice Pro. The studio had projected ticket sales of around $17 million.

A rerelease of the 2009 blockbuster “Avatar” took in $10 million domestically, Comscore estimated, as Walt Disney Co. seeks to drum up interest in the sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” before its debut in December.

The current period is a slow one for the industry as theater chains await the debuts of some potentially big films later this year, including “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” on Nov. 11. In the meantime, smaller-budget pictures have been competing with classic movie rereleases and foreign films as cinema owners try to fill seats.

“Don’t Worry Darling” tells the story of residents in a fictional town called Victory, California, which was created and paid for by a secretive company. It’s Wilde’s second film after her 2019 directorial debut with “Booksmart,” and stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. It has a 38% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though 80% of moviegoers said they liked it. It was made for $35 million.

“We’re enormously proud of this film and are pleased with these results given our modest production budget,” Warner Bros. said in a statement.

The movie, which was made under Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema label, was the subject of unusually intense press coverage before its premiere.

One of its stars, Shia LaBeouf, was fired and replaced with Styles, according to Wilde. LaBeouf accused her of lying, saying he quit, while others have speculated a rift also developed between the director and Pugh.

The audience for “Don’t Worry Darling” was 66% female, most of them over 18 years old, the studio said. “The Woman King,” a Sony Group movie about a female-led group of African warriors, which opened in first place last weekend, took the No. 2 spot. It sold $11.1 million in tickets, Comscore estimated.

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