“The Woman King,” an epic about an army of African warrior women, dominated the North American box office this weekend with an estimated $19 million, industry analyst Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.
Loosely based on a true historical episode, Sony’s new film stars Oscar winner Viola Davis as the ferocious general who leads an army known as Agojie while protecting the 18th-century kingdom of Dahomey.
Days earlier, Davis told AFP he felt “conflicted” that if the black-starring, female-dominated film was unsuccessful, it would unfairly damage prospects for future such projects. But buoyed by favorable critical reception, the film beat analysts’ expectations, more than tripling the ticket sales of the next-highest-grossing film, “Barbarian,” from 20th Century studios.
This horror movie tells the story of a woman (played by English actress Georgina Campbell) who rents an AirBnB in a shady Detroit neighborhood only to discover that it had already been booked. “Barbaro” grossed $6.3 million in the period from Friday to Sunday.
In third place was “Pearl,” a low-budget new release from A24, with ticket sales of just over 3.1 million. Mia Goth stars in a bloody story with the use of axes and pitchforks on animals and humans.
Searchlight’s comedy “Watch Them Run” ranked fourth in its opening weekend with $3.1 million. In the film, Sam Rockwell plays an often drunken Scotland Yard detective, Saoirse Ronan her eager but hapless assistant, and Adrien Brody a sleazy Hollywood director. And in fifth place was Sony’s action thriller “Bullet Train,” starring Brad Pitt, with $2.5 million.
They completed the top ten places:
– “Top Gun: Maverick” ($2.2 million)
– “DC League of Superpets” (2.2 million)
-“Invitation to Hell” (1.7 million)
– “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (1.3 million)
– “Moonage Daydream” (1.2 million).
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Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis said the future of big-budget black female cinema in Hollywood is at stake with the weekend premiere of the epic “The Woman King,” in which she plays an African warrior.
Speaking to AFP, Davis said Wednesday that he feels intense pressure and mixed emotions, knowing his performance in this film will be judged in a way that films with white directors and casts are not.
“First of all, the film must make money. And I feel conflicted about it, because we only have one or two opportunities, ”she assured. “If it doesn’t make money, then that mostly means that a black woman, a dark-skinned woman can’t top the global box office?”
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“And it is over. Spot. And now, they use data for that, because ‘The King Woman’ did a, b or c. And that is what creates a conflict for me.” “Because it just isn’t true. We don’t do that with white films. Just no. If a movie fails, you make another movie and you make another movie just like it.”
“The King Woman”, from Sony Pictures, which tells the story of the warrior women of Dahomey -today Benin- in the 19th century, is in many ways a leap into the unknown for a major Hollywood studio.
With black director Gina Prince-Bythewood and a majority black and female cast, it will open in more than 3,000 theaters on a budget of about $100 million, including merchandising. Davis, the only African-American woman to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony, spent six years making this film a reality, with studios and producers reluctant to take the risk.
Davis plays the veteran warrior Nanisca who trains a new generation that must defend itself against a stronger rival kingdom and European slavers. The all-female army of the Kingdom of Dahomey served as an inspiration for the elite female fighters in the film “Black Panther,” which grossed $1.3 billion worldwide.
Davis also urged movie-loving audiences to show that movies like “The King Woman” can be successful without being part of a superhero franchise. “We’re all in this together, right? We know we need each other. We know that we are all committed to inclusion and diversity,” said the actress.
“So if you can spend your money to see ‘Avatar’; if you can spend your money to see ‘Titanic,’ then you can also spend it to see ‘The King Woman,’” she added. “Because there is the thing. It’s not even about being run by a black woman, the cultural significance of that; but that it is a very entertaining film”. “And if we are indeed the same, I challenge you to prove it,” Davis added.
The film has already received positive reviews after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Variety called it a “compelling display of black power” with Davis in his “fiercest role yet.”
But, Davis clarifies, the scenes of strong battles aroused criticism and misogyny among the black community. “Even in the black community you have people saying, ‘Oh, these dark-skinned women, why do they have to be so masculine? Why can’t they look prettier? Why can’t it be a romantic comedy?’” she pointed out.
“Well, guess what, if this movie doesn’t make money on September 16th, and by the way I’m 150% sure it will; but if you don’t, then guess what: they won’t see us at all,” she added. “That’s the truth. I wish it was different.”