Harriet, the Focus Features release about abolitionist Harriet Tubman, opened this weekend with an estimated $12 million dollars in ticket sales.
The Kasi Lemmons-directed biopic played in 2,059 theaters across North America, for a per location average of $5,828, according to Comscore.
Written by Gregory Allen Howard and Lemmons, the film debuted in fourth place on the box office chart.
[See the chart below]
Despite criticism about the casting and threats of a boycott, the drama surpassed analyst expectations, which had it opening in the $10 million range.
“Harriet over performed this weekend and even though it’s the number four movie, it’s one of the brightest, best stories of the box office weekend,” Comscore Sr. Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Urban Hollywood 411. “The marketing was fantastic and Focus Features has become a powerhouse in releasing films that are introspective, interesting and have a social message.”
The film stars Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo as the devoutly religious freedom fighter who escaped slavery in Maryland, and risked her life countless times to help hundreds of enslaved African Americans make the perilous journey north to freedom.
“If I’m free, my family should be too. I made up my mind, I’m going back,” Erivo says in one particularly poignant moment of the film.
The supporting cast includes Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Jennifer Nettles, Omar J. Dorsey, Henry Hunter Hall, Tim Guinee, and Nick Basta.
With a reported $17 million budget, Harriet is expected to turn a profit during its theatrical run.
Elsewhere at the box office, the news wasn’t nearly as good for Terminator: Dark Fate.
While the action drama topped the box office, its $29 million dollar debut came in well below expectations. With a hefty $185 million budget, the film had been expected to open with at least $40 million.
The sixth installment in the Terminator franchise saw Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger return in their original roles. Directed by Tim Miller and produced by visionary filmmaker James Cameron, Paramount’s Dark Fate played in 4,086 theaters for an average of $7,097.
Even though the film received positive reviews from critics, and a strong 69 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, moviegoers essentially ignored it. As box office totals flowed in Sunday morning, headlines across the web said Dark Fate “wiped out,” “bombed” and “fizzled.”
Also this weekend, Warner Bros.’ Joker took second place with $13.9 million. Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil came in third with $12.1 million.
As previously noted, Harriet took fourth with $12 million, while The Addams Family rounded out the top five with $8.5 million.