‘The Woman King’ To Reign Over Niche Releases
We’re still knee deep in the current box office slump, with five weeks left until Halloween Ends carries us out of it. However, after a better than expected $42.3 million overall box office last weekend (a 24% drop) and solid buzz on this weekend’s The Woman King and next weekend’s Don't Worry Darling, it looks like we may be able to weather the storm without hitting a new low overall weekend low for the year (January 28-30’s $34.9 million gross is the number to beat). This would only be a minor consolation, and we may not see a single weekend even get over $60 million until October 14-16, but having a few doubles and triples will tide theaters over until the upcoming season of homeruns and grand slams.

The biggest release this weekend is Sony/TriStar’s The Woman King, which should open in the mid teens from 3,700 theaters (including IMAX and other premium large format screens) to become the best debut since Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero four weeks ago. The Gina Prince-Bythewood directorial can be described as a “Braveheart meets Black Panther” historical epic set in 19th century West Africa, based on a band of female warriors fighting for their kingdom of Dahomey against rival tribes and European slave traders. Viola Davis leads the cast which also includes Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega. The $50 million budget on this makes it a risky bet, necessitating strong legs and a large international turnout to make a profit, but with killer reviews (currently at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes) and awards potential, The Woman King certainly has a fighting chance.

Also going wide this weekend with a good shot at second place is Ti West’s Pearl, the prequel to the horror film X which came out in March. The 2,900 theater A24 release tells the origin story of the eponymous Pearl, the villain from X, and it stars Mia Goth as the young Pearl after playing both the older Pearl and the young heroine Maxine in X. While the 1970s set X was in the vein ofThe Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the 1918 set Pearl looks more towards old Hollywood’s Technicolor classics crossed withPsycho, and the film is intended to work as a standalone feature. X opened to $4.275 million six months ago and it finished with $11.8 million domestic and $14.5 million worldwide. Critics are digging it almost as much as the first film (85% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to its predecessor’s 94%), and the good news for fans is that another installment, the 1980s set MaXXXine, is already in the works.

Another film going wide with a good shot at the top five is Searchlight’s See How They Run, an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery set in 1950s London. The ensemble cast includes Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan as the investigators on the case of the murdered theatre director played by Adrien Brody. The buzz is soft, but the film debuted at number one on the U.K. and Ireland charts last weekend with $1.3 million, and critics are mostly enjoying it (73% on Rotten Tomatoes).

On a smaller scale is Kevin Smith’s return to the characters and convenience store that launched his career. On Tuesday, Fathom Events’ began the 1,200 theater, 13-day limited engagement of Clerks III, which is in addition to the touring roadshow screenings with Smith in attendance which are scheduled through November. It’s a different market now than when Clerks II opened to $10 million in 2006 and finished with a cume of $24.1 million, but a finish along the lines of the 2019 Jay and Silent Bob Reboot ($4.59 million) could be in order here.

Yet even more films are taking advantage of the slow season with solid sized releases this weekend. The faith based baseball film Running the Bases from UP2U Films is looking to tap into the religious audience as it goes wide. Also going wide is IFC’s well-reviewed (88% on Rotten Tomatoes) Thandiwe Newton starring thriller God's Country. Most notable in limited release is Focus’ 279 theater debut of The Silent Twins, the English language debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczyńska (The Lure, Fugue) which stars Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance as the real life identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons who only spoke with each other. Further expansion is planned for the film which has received mixed reviews (67% on Rotten Tomatoes) since its Cannes premiere.