Box Office Breakdown: “The Woman King” reigns 

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While the overall box office is still in a relative lull compared to its summer peak, this week brought many newcomers to the charts. 

Leading the way is the historical epic, “The Woman King.” The film, led by Viola Davis, premiered to critical and audience acclaim, currently sitting at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and earning itself an “A+” CinemaScore from audiences. “The Woman King” earned $19 million in its opening weekend, slightly below my $25 million estimate from last weekend. With a reported $50 million budget, the film likely needs to clear $190 million worldwide to break even. To do so, the film will likely need to earn around $100 million domestically. How likely is that to happen? Typically if a film opens to $19 million, the chances of it grossing $100 million are naught, but “The Woman King” is a special circumstance, as it is atypical to be critically acclaimed and beloved by audiences, yet open to only $19 million. The only recent film with similar critical and audience reception is “Top Gun: Maverick” which has earned an insane 5.6x multiple (total domestic gross divided by domestic opening weekend) over its run. If you apply that 5.6x multiple to “The Woman King,” that generates a $106 million domestic gross. It is a tall task to replicate such a historic box office run, but the film’s reception puts it in the realm of possibility.  

In second place this weekend is last week’s No. 1, “Barbarian” which broke the norm for horror films. Typically, a horror film exhibits a steep drop-off in its second weekend, but “Barbarian” only fell 40% to gross $6.3 million. Last week, I discussed that the film needed to earn around $43 million worldwide to profit, with likely $28 million of that being domestic earnings. Now, after two weekends, the film has earned $20.9 million. Last week, I said the path to profitability for “Barbarian” was unlikely, now it seems like the film may be a lock. As always, never judge anything too soon. 

In third place this weekend is the A24 horror film “Pearl,” the prequel to this year’s earlier horror film “X.” The film grossed $3.1 million and earned strong critical reception and a “B-” CinemaScore. This film reportedly only had a budget of $1 million, making it difficult to estimate profitability. Typically, we gauge marketing budgets from production budgets, but with one so low, it is tough to tell. If we estimate a $5 million marketing budget, considering the theaters’ share of earnings, “Pearl” needs to gross over $12.5 million worldwide to profit. With a $3.1 million opening weekend that seems unlikely, but with the film’s strong critical reception we cannot cast off the film’s chances just yet. 

In fourth and fifth place this weekend are “See How They Run” and “Bullet Train” with $3.1 million and $2.55 million respectively. “See How They Run” is a new whodunit starring Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan that premiered to moderate critical reception and a “B-” CinemaScore. The film’s budgetary data has not been made publicly available, but considering its strong cast and period piece nature, it is difficult to imagine the film is profitable. “Bullet Train” has continued riding towards the $100 million mark domestically, now clearing $96 million. The film will likely cross that figure by sometime next week. With only a 24.5% drop, “Bullet Train” is showing little signs of slowing down. 

Next week brings the release of a film that has been prominent in headlines the last few weeks — “Don’t Worry Darling.” Olivia Wilde’s second directorial effort stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. From firing Shia LaBeouf in 2021, to the revelations this year that LaBeouf may have quit, to the relationship drama and the alleged split between the director Wilde and the star Pugh, “Don’t Worry Darling” has every base covered in the drama department. As many say, “all publicity is good publicity,” and that is quite true at the box office. Such media coverage could bode well for the film’s opening, even amidst mixed critical reception. I predict the film will gross $30 million in its opening weekend. 

We will see if that is the case next weekend. Will “Don’t Worry Darling” emerge victorious next week or will its box office life come crashing down? 

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