'The Woman King' Conquers Box Office With Surprise $19M Opening
Sony Pictures Entertainment/Ilze Kitshoff

The Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed historical epic film starring Viola Davis bows at No. 1 on the domestic chart despite pushback over the perceived inaccuracy of the Dahomey.

AceShowbiz - "The Woman King" reigns at box office on its debut weekend. The historical epic film starring Viola Davis has conquered the North American chart with a surprising $19 million according to Sunday estimates, surpassing expectations.

The film, about the Agojie, the all-female army of the Kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa in the 1800s, carried a reported production budget of $50 million. It got glowing reviews following its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9.

From Sony's TriStar division and eOne, "TWK" is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. It boasts a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences seem to agree, giving it a rare A+ CinemaScore. The movie mostly skews female and older moviegoers, with women making up 58% percent of all ticket buyers.

The solid start of "TWK" shows the public's well reception for the film despite backlash over what some critics say as obscuring the history of the Kingdom of Dahomey. The Dahomey, as well as their all-female military regiment, the Agodjie, are presented as righteous, empowering liberators in all the marketing of the film, when in reality, they participated in the Atlantic slave trade.

Dahomey was one of a handful of tribes in the 17th/18th/19th centuries that captured and sold off black slaves to Europeans, a means of trade they continued for a good while, until the Brits actually forced them to stop in the mid-1800s. According to some historians, "TWK" does blur the lines a bit by making the Dahomey look more like victims of circumstance than willing participants.

Responding to the backlash, Davis said at a recent interview that the pushback they received was because the film "is a predominantly black female and dark-skinned male, black female-driven narrative." She argued, "They do not believe that we could lead the global box office without a white male savior, or even a white female savior, which is nowhere in the film. So everything became a fight."

Back to the box office, fellow newcormer "Pearl", the horror prequel to "X" (2022), debuts at No. 3 with approximately $3.12 million. Trailing close behind is starry mystery comedy film "See How They Run", meanwhile, which enters the domestic chart at No. 4 with an estimated $3.1 million.

Last week's new entry and champion "Barbarian" is pushed aside to No. 2 with an estimated $6.3 million. "Bullet Train" falls two spots to No. 5 with approximately $2.5 million on its fifth weekend.

Top 10 of North America Box Office (Sep. 16-18, 2022):

  1. "The Woman King" - $19 million
  2. "Barbarian" - $6.3 million
  3. "Pearl" - $3.12 million
  4. "See How They Run" - $3.1 million
  5. "Bullet Train" - $2.5 million
  6. "Top Gun: Maverick" - $2.18 million
  7. "DC League of Super-Pets" - $2.17 million
  8. "The Invitation (2022)" - $1.7 million
  9. "Minions: The Rise of Gru" - $1.3 million
  10. "Moonage Daydream" - $1.2 million

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