Box Office: ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Claiming Victory With Projected $21 Million Opening

It’s been a rambling, rocky odyssey to the release of “Don’t Worry Darling” — one involving canceled late-night appearances, rumors of production rivalries and conspiratorial frame-by-frame analysis of red carpet body language and an alleged loogie trajectory. But there was always going to be an opening weekend at the end of this road. And the numbers show that Olivia Wilde has directed a hit.

“Don’t Worry Darling” should have no trouble topping the domestic box office, projecting a $21 million debut from 4,113 theaters. The film earned $9.4 million from opening day and Thursday previews — a more-than-solid figure for an original film that carries a modest $35 million production budget.

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With a star-studded cast, topped by Oscar nominee Florence Pugh and pop superstar Harry Styles, the film has stirred up enough excitement to convince fans to see how its mystery all plays out on the big screen. The audience is skewing heavily towards women, who composed 66% of opening day crowds.

Ticket buyers weren’t deterred by largely unimpressed reviews. The film carries a rather dismal 21% approval rating from top critics on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wasn’t too hot on the film, though he did portend its ultimate popular success: “Between the pop ambition, the tasty dream visuals, and the presence of Harry Styles in his first lead role, ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ should have no trouble finding an audience. But the movie takes you on a ride that gets progressively less scintillating as it goes along.”

The coming days will see if that audience sticks. “Don’t Worry Darling” has landed a “B-” grade through research firm Cinema Score, indicating a largely apathetic response from general moviegoers (though that’s in line with your standard psychological thriller). It’s not impossible that the swirl of rumors around “Don’t Worry Darling” cultivated an event status around the film, which could ultimately lead to a more front-loaded box office performance.

“Don’t Worry Darling” stars Pugh and Styles as a happily married couple in the experimental desert community of Victory, Calif. But the shimmering routine of Nuclear Age-living is not completely as it seems, with a Svengali-like cult leader (Chris Pine) holding court over the tiny town. The film also stars Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll and Kate Berlant.

This weekend also sees the re-release of James Cameron’s sci-fi smash “Avatar,” as 20th Century Studios and parent company Disney prepare to bring audiences back to Pandora in December with the long-awaited sequel, “The Way of Water.”

With 3D screenings in premium format auditoriums like Imax, “Avatar” earned $3.32 million from 1,860 theaters on Friday. The film is projecting a weekend total in the high single digits.

“Avatar” will build on its current $760 million domestic gross, which stands as the fourth-highest in the history of the North American box office behind “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($936 million), “Avengers: Endgame” ($858 million) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($814 million). Across its original run and subsequent re-releases, James Cameron’s epic is the highest-grossing film ever, with $2.845 billion in grosses at the global box office.

TriStar Pictures’ “The Woman King” earned $2.95 million from 3,765 locations on Friday, down 56% from its opening day gross last week. The Viola Davis vehicle is projected to earn $10 million through the weekend, expanding its domestic haul to $35 million. The historical epic, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, has been received with enthusiasm by both critics and audiences. Should “The Woman King” continue to ride word-of-mouth to healthy multiples, the Sony release will finish with a North American gross large enough to justify its $50 million production budget.

20th Century Studios’ “Barbarian” looks to fall to fourth place with a $4.7 million weekend, projecting a spectacularly slim 28% drop in its third outing. The film has become a buzzy title among horror fans. Per director Zach Cregger, “Barbarian” carries a slim production budget of $4 million — a figure that the $25 million-plus domestic gross blasted past long ago.

Fifth place is a tight race, but A24’s “Pearl” looks to lead the competition so far. The Mia Goth horror vehicle looks to fall a slim 38% in its sophomore outing, expanding its domestic haul to $6.6 million.

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