Warner Bros.’ high-profile drama Don’t Worry Darling is headed for a solid $21 million opening at the domestic box office after grossing more than $9.4 million Friday (Sept. 23) from 4,113 theaters, including $3.1 million in Thursday previews and special Imax screenings on Monday.
Directed by Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling was the most-talked-about entry at the Venice Film Festival, as it faced a number of controversies, including rumors of acrimony between Wilde and lead actress Florence Pugh. On Friday, Pugh shared a heartfelt message on Instagram praising the cast and crew with photos, including one with Wilde.
Don’t Worry Darling received a mediocre B- CinemaScore (Wilde’s last film, Booksmart, earned a B+). The B- could ding word-of-mouth. Ditto for tepid reviews. Wilde’s sophomore directing effort presently has a 35 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, dimming its awards chances and making it more difficult to attract older adults who are known for relying on reviews when deciding whether to make a trip to the cinema.
Tracking and Warner Bros. had projected a $17 million opening weekend. But based on advance ticket sales, exhibitors believed the film would fall between $20 million and $24 million (some think even higher). The movie cost a relatively modest $35 million to make, so it appears to be on the road to breaking even.
Analysts believe the movie’s biggest asset in terms of its box office performance is the legions of younger females devoted to Harry Styles, who stars opposite Pugh and Chris Pine in Wilde’s high-concept psychological thriller about a young couple residing in an idyllic, cult-like community.
They appear to be right. Females made up a massive 73 percent of Friday’s audience, while 67 percent of ticket buyers were between the ages of 18 and 34.
Hollywood insiders aren’t convinced that the general moviegoing public cares about the offscreen drama. If anything, the publicity increases awareness.
Don’t Worry Darling goes against the second weekend of The Woman King and the rerelease of Avatar, the top-earning film of all time.
From Sony and eOne, Woman King should place second with $10 million to $10.8 million, a good hold. The film earned $3 million on Friday from 3,765 cinemas.
The Avatar rerelease is expected to earn $9 million or more for the weekend after earning $3.3 million Friday from 1,860 theaters. Overseas, it started off with a hearty $11 million. To this day, the movie is the top-earning film of all time with more than $2.84 billion in ticket sales.
Director James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau are in the midst of prepping for the December release of the sequel Avatar: The Way of Water. Returning the original movie to cinemas is just one component of a sprawling marketing campaign that’s being orchestrated by Disney and 20th Century Studios.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.