After months of gossip and online speculation, Warner Bros.’ Don’t Worry Darling will hit theaters this weekend in a bid to continue the gradual fall box office comeback.
Director Olivia Wilde’s Darling has long been the subject of industry drama due to on-set production controversies, something that’s fueled the social media fire for discussion around the film. Combined with that element, Harry Styles fans are expected to turnout for opening shows this weekend as the global pop star commands strong appeal among young women. Florence Pugh’s lead performance has also drawn considerable praise to help add an important selling point.
That being said, Darling has encountered a speed bump on the road to a potential breakout with poor reviews (currently at 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). While those, and the increasingly negative sentiment on the periphery of the movie itself, might keep some of the target adult-audience away, it could also reinforce the old “any press is good press” adage — particularly among that young female crowd.
Pre-sales have reflected the latter with strong advance ticket buys in recent weeks, particularly for the film’s IMAX Live premiere at 105 locations earlier this week and wide Thursday previews at more than 3,200 locations this Thursday. Social sentiment measurements aren’t as positive as they were for films like Elvis and Where the Crawdads Sing, but the overall volume of chatter makes up for that shortage.
All told, Darling is likely in a position to at least come in above prior long range forecasts thanks to the snowballing momentum generated by media headlines, but reception and key demographics will likely make it a more front-loaded run than is typical of an original drama with adult-leaning psychological thriller aspects. Forecasting models are unusually volatile for this kind of film so close to release.
Darling opens at over 4,000 domestic venues this weekend with a footprint in PLFs ranging from IMAX to Dolby and motion seating, plus limited IMAX screenings. Warner Bros. expects around $17 million for the weekend. The production budget was an estimated $35 million, keeping the ceiling to success fairly low.
The other headlining opener this weekend is another re-issue, this time James Cameron’s original Avatar. Distributed by 20th Century Studios under the Disney banner now, this is largely a marketing move to reintroduce the original film to audiences before its long-awaited sequel arrives in December.
Perhaps equally, though, is the perception that this will be a test for modern audience’s sentiment toward 3D. The original film famously popularized the theatrical format and bred a number of copycats during the years after its release. Many of those films failed to utilize the format properly, which turned off a large portion of the moviegoing audience to the format during the past decade.
The original Avatar earned approximately 80 percent of its lifetime gross from 3D shows, so there is probably still some trust (especially from fans) when Cameron delivers a 3D product to theaters. For perspective, the recent Jurassic World Dominion earned just 13 percent of its opening weekend from traditional 3D, while Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness earned 9 percent.
Still, at nearly 13 years old now, this re-issue is also partly a test of how relevant the film remains in current pop culture mindset. Disney has put more marketing muscle into it than they did for Rogue One last month, and this re-release is slated for over 1,800 domestic locations.
Based on recent re-issues, Avatar‘s signals indicate it has a shot to upset The Woman King for second place this weekend — but that’s not a lock. Disney reports an estimated 90 percent of Avatar screenings will be in 3D, including virtually all IMAX shows and 85 percent of other PLF screens (including 1,600 RealD 3D locations). 2D showtimes are minimal. This is the first time the film will be screening 4K HDR.
Ultimately, however this re-issue performs over the weekend may inform how the studio decides to strategize its sequel’s rollout in a few months.
Meanwhile, The Woman King will aim to take advantage of its strong word of mouth after opening on the high end of expectations last week. The potential award season candidate will lose its PLF boosts, but reception should balance things out in the long run as a leggy corridor into the heart of fall remains expected for the Viola Davis-led hit.
Avatar (2022 Re-Issue)
Opening Range: $7 – 12 million
Don’t Worry Darling
Opening Range: $18 – 27 million
Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections
Current projection ranges call for a 23 to 42 percent increase from last weekend’s $43.1 million top ten aggregate.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, September 25||Location Count Projection (as of Wed)||3-Day % Change from Last Wknd|
|Don’t Worry Darling||Warner Bros. Pictures||$21,600,000||$21,600,000||~4,000||NEW|
|The Woman King||Sony Pictures||$11,600,000||$37,500,000||~3,765||-39%|
|Avatar (2022 Re-Issue)||20th Century Studios (Disney)||$8,400,000||$8,400,000||~1,800||NEW|
|Barbarian||20th Century Studios (Disney)||$4,600,000||$28,300,000||~2,600||-29%|
|Bullet Train||Sony Pictures||$1,900,000||$99,400,000||~1,800||-26%|
|See How They Run||Searchlight Pictures (Disney)||$1,800,000||$6,000,000||~2,404||-40%|
|DC League of Super-Pets||Warner Bros. Pictures||$1,700,000||$90,000,000||~2,300||-22%|
|Top Gun: Maverick||Paramount Pictures||$1,600,000||$711,600,000||~2,000||-29%|
|Minions: The Rise of Gru||Universal & Illumination Animation||$1,000,000||$365,500,000||~1,500||-28%|
*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios. The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.