‘The Woman King’ Slays With Overperforming $19 Million Debut & A+ CinemaScore
Though the box office slump continues, it looks like the worst is over. The weekend’s $48.5 million overall box office is the fourth worst of the year, but it's around a 13% increase from last weekend’s $42.3 million, which was the year’s second worst weekend and may turn out to be the season’s weakest. This weekend is the first in September to perform better than the same weekend last year, which had an MCU title at the head of the month with little else to follow, and the buzz on Don't Worry Darling suggests that next weekend should see more growth. Of course, these low overall numbers are still bleak (keep in mind no pre-pandemic weekend dropped below $60 million since 2001), and the numbers will remain ugly until Halloween Ends opens in four weekends from now, but after seven of the past ten weekends declining, any improvement is a decent sign.

If there’s one title to celebrate this past month, it’s Sony’s The Woman King . The Viola Davis-starring, Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed, West Africa set historical epic opened in first place with an above-expectations $19 million. More important than the overperforming opening, though, is its A+ CinemaScore, making The Woman King just the second film of the year to receive the top grade from audiences (the other was Top Gun: Maverick, and we all know how that went). We can expect strong legs from here (more than four times the opening is common for the rare film that receives the A+), and suddenly the $50 million budget on the film (which was co-financed with eOne) looks much more recoupable.

Critics agree with audiences that The Woman King is a winner (it’s at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes), and its status may get a further boost when awards season comes around. The film opened in 3,765 theaters, and audiences felt this was one to see on the biggest screen around as 34% of its gross came from IMAX and other premium large format (PLF) screens. We’ll have to wait to find out how it performs internationally, but so far it’s off to a strong start.

More good news this weekend comes from the critically acclaimed (93% Tomatometer) horror film Barbarian, which had a strong hold in its second weekend, declining just 40% to come in second place with $6.3 million and a cume of $20.9 million. The numbers may not look spectacular, but given the 20th Century/Disney film’s $10.5 million budget, this tale of an Airbnb booking gone wrong could become one of the season’s biggest successes.

Third place is a close call, but it looks like it will go to Ti West’s X spinoff/prequel Pearl, which debuts with $3.12 million million from 2,935 screens. Not quite the $4.28 million opening of X, but still another nice number for A24 given what is likely a miniscule budget film (the budget isn’t known, but X cost only $1 million and Pearl was filmed secretly immediately after). It’s almost certain that Pearl, which stars Mia Goth and tells the origin story of the villain from X, will finish below X’s $11.8 million cume, but it could still hit the double digits, and its B- CinemaScore is not bad for a horror film. The third film in the X-verse, MaXXXine, is already in the works.

Right behind it coming in fourth is another newcomer,See How They Run, which is the first theatrical release from Searchlight in 2022. The comic Agatha Christie homage opened on 2,404 screens with $3.1 million. Not great, but solid for what it is, and actually better than Searchlight’s last release Nightmare Alley, which opened to a disappointing $2.81 million last December. The 1950s London set murder mystery, which stars Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, and Adrien Brody, had more impressive numbers in the U.K., where it was number one two weekends in a row. The global cume is $7.6 million.

Fifth place went to Bullet Train in its seventh weekend, dropping 24% for a gross of $2.5 million. The domestic cume is $96.4 million, with $100 million just around the corner, and the global cume is now $222 million.

The most notable newcomer outside the top five is Moonage Daydream, a documentary from Neon about David Bowie. The Brett Morgen-directed film played in 170 IMAX screens and came in tenth place with a cume of $1.225 million, giving it the weekend’s highest per theater average with $7,205. It grossed another $350k from select international markets where Universal is handling distribution. The doc expands domestically next weekend to around 600 theaters.

Outside the top ten were a number of new semi-wides that failed to gross enough to justify their screen counts. Kevin Smith’s Clerks III, with a release from Fathom Events, grossed $570k over the weekend, though its cume since its Tuesday opening comes to a much better $2.11 million, and it would have cracked the top ten with a Friday opening. UP2U Films’ 1,080 theater release of the faith based Running the Bases brought in $545k. IFC gave its well reviewed, Thandiwe Newton-starring neo-western God's Country a 785 theater release, resulting in a soft $300k. Grossing $260k wasConfess, Fletch, the reboot of the Fletch series with Greg Mottola at the helm and Jon Hamm in the role of the title character. Paramount put the film in 516 theaters day and date with its PVOD release. As for Focus’ limited release of The Silent Twins, it grossed just $102k from 279 theaters.