‘Don’t Worry Darling’: PR Fiasco Be Damned, Olivia Wilde’s Movie Could Set Box Office Precedents

Olivia Wilde’s 1950s suburban drama “Don’t Worry Darling” (WBD) took in a combined $3.1 between Monday IMAX screenings and Thursday shows starting at 4 p.m. These early results buttress expectations that the film likely exceeds $20 million for the weekend (including these totals). Warners gave $17 million as its pre-release projection.

WBD didn’t provide a breakdown between the two days, but similar cases have shown the wider Thursday shows usually account for two thirds or more of the gross. If so, that would suggest at least $2 million Thursday. One-day previews for “The Woman King” (Sony) resulted in a $1.7 million gross, which became part of a $19 million weekend.

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“Darling,” which stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, and Chris Pine, cost something less than $35 million, less than “Woman King.” It overlaps in female appeal, though the expectation is that Wilde’s film will skew substantially younger. Harry Styles will draw an 18-24-year-old crowd, but its R rating will limit the ability of his younger fans to see it.

Not knowing the breakdown between Monday and Thursday numbers limits analysis, but the reports of decent or better crowds suggests positive word of mouth. It will take at least until Saturday to assess reaction, although Cinemascore will release its result late Friday night.

“Don’t Worry Darling” - Credit: ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett C
“Don’t Worry Darling” - Credit: ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett C

©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett C

We assume “Darling” will reach, if not exceed, its anticipated $20 million weekend total, which would make two consecutive weekends that films directed by women ranked #1. Even better, both are original titles with midrange budgets (“Woman King” was $50 million).

With 4,113 U.S./Canada theaters, “Darling” will have more dates than any previous film directed by a woman. That number is impressive. At different times, among different companies with streaming outlets (including Warners), this might have been considered a candidate for day-and-date or a streaming debut. That’s no longer the case under WBD’s new management.

The theatrical success of “Darling” would be a grace note in what’s a grim period for exhibition. Beyond that, it’s critical for other ideas with far more long-term implications: Ticket buyers respond to non-franchise titles andfemale-interest films are key to box office recovery. Beyond that:  Even if reviews aren’t great and a publicity strategy  doesn’t go as planned goes completely off the rails, success is possible.

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