‘The Woman King’ poised for big box-office run after surprisingly strong opening weekend

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Viola Davis stars in Sony’s “The Woman King.”

During a lull in the movie calendar, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King” is generating the kind of buzz — and ticket sales — that the box office desperately needs.

Theaction-packed film about an all-female regiment of warriors brought in $19 million at the domestic box office during its opening weekend, far exceeding the $12 million Sony had predicted.

The film stars Viola Davis as a general tasked with training the next generation of fighters in the Kingdom of Dahomey in Africa during the 1820s.

“‘The Woman King’ opened on the high end of our expectations and looks poised for a very healthy theatrical run thanks to strong word of mouth,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

He said it’s a welcome injection of business for theaters during this slow start to the fall season and for studios building up their pipeline of original content and adult-driven dramas.

More than 1.4 million people saw the film during its first three days in theaters, according to data from EntTelligence, with 33% opting for premium format tickets. Those tickets sold for an average of $4.50 above traditional ticket prices.

Overall ticket sales were driven predominantly by older female viewers, a demographic that has been slower to return to cinemas coming out of the Covid pandemic. Some 58% of ticket holders were women and 71% were over the age of 25, according to data provided by Sony.

Additionally, Black audiences accounted for 56% of all opening weekend ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada.

“Much like ‘Black Panther,’ ‘The Woman King’ demonstrates that positive, culturally based stories can resonate strongly among all audiences,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “And with great reviews and awards buzz also in the mix, this ‘King’ could have a nice long reign in theaters.”

Critics and audiences have raved about the film. Aggregate critic reviews currently stand at 95% “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and general audience reviews are at 99%.

Box-office analysts expect “The Woman King” will easily recoup its $50 million production budget and has the potential to expand to a broader audience as word of mouth spreads, much like Paramount and Skydance’s “Top Gun: Maverick” has in recent months.

“‘The Woman King’ showed the power of a perfectly marketed epic with a great star, inspiring storyline, and an advantageous release date to draw audiences in what has been described as a ‘slow period’ at the box office,” Dergarabedian said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

Sophie Tremblay

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