‘The Woman King’ Crowned Box Office Leader With $19 Million Debut

The Woman King (Credit: Sony Pictures)

The Woman King battled to the top of the box office this weekend, after taking in an estimated $19 million in ticket sales across North America.

The historical epic from Sony and Entertainment One led the competition by earning $6.8 million on Friday, $7.1 million on Saturday, and a projected $5.0 million on Sunday from 3,765 locations, according to Comscore.

Viola Davis stars as general Nanisca, leader of an all-female unit of soldiers known as the Agojie, who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin) in the 1800s. The film is inspired by real events.

Related StoryViola Davis Says Being a Black Actress Takes ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’

The international cast also includes Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Adrienne Warren, Thuso Mbedu, and John Boyega as king Ghezo, who is challenged by Davis’ Nanisca for his willingness to sell fellow Africans into slavery to Europeans.

Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard, Love & Basketball) directed the epic from a script written by Dana Stevens (Fatherhood, Safe Haven), and a story by actress Maria Bello (A History of Violence), who came up with the idea after visiting Benin.

The Woman King has gotten rave reviews from critics. The film has a 94 percent positive rating on review aggregation website, Rotten Tomatoes, with reviewers describing the drama as “remarkable,” “powerful” and “in a class by itself.”

Yet not everyone embraced the story. The hashtag #BoycottWomanKing trended throughout the weekend on Twitter, with some social media users criticizing the film for perceived inaccuracies, “glorifying slave traders,” and “whitewashing” history. Detractors say the Agodjie are presented as liberators, when in reality, they were heavily involved in the Atlantic slave trade.

“Time to Boycott The Woman King movie. The film is about the Dahomey & Benin that traded slaves into the transatlantic… This may be the most offensive film to Black Americans in 40-50 years,” Los Angeles attorney Antonio Moore tweeted Friday.

Related StoryTyler Perry Urges Caution in Push for More Diversity in Hollywood

Just before the film opened, Smithsonian magazine published an article saying the project takes “dramatic license” with history. The article notes history shows “Dahomey emerged as a key player in the trafficking of West Africans between the 1680s and early 1700s, selling its captives to European traders.”

Despite the criticism and calls for a boycott, moviegoers embraced The Woman King and propelled it to a solid debut.

Elsewhere at the box office, The horror film Barbarian slipped to second place, taking in $6.3 million in its second weekend, according to Comscore.

A24 horror film Pearl opened in third place with $3.12 million. The film was conceived and written by horror master Ti West during the pandemic.

The 1950s-set mystery See How They Run,  starring Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell, opened in fourth place with $3.10 million. Bullet Train rounded out the top five after taking in $2.5 million in its seventh week in theaters.

Check out the box office chart below from Comscore.

Box Office Chart September 18 2022. (Credit: Comscore)