Don't Worry Darling and Avatar, to the rescue? Expected to lift Box Office Tentpoles

Following the release of Bullet Train, the lack of tentpoles started in early August, and it will continue until the release of Halloween Ends in mid-October. The season has had some strong counterprogramming, best exemplified by last weekend's overperforming $19 million opening of The Woman King, which should have strong legs given the film's exceptional word of mouth (including the rare A+ CinemaScore). Despite the lack of main events, which has caused the overall box office to plunge below $60 million for four weekends in a row and possibly three more to come, the season has had some strong main events.

Don't Worry Darling, possibly the most anticipated movie of the season, will be released this weekend. Don't Worry Darling could have the highest weekend box office since Bullet Train's $30 million opening seven weekends ago (the highest since then is Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero's $21.1 million debut five weekends ago). 

Don't Worry Darling, a Warner Bros. release that will be seen in more than 4,000 theatres and in IMAX and other premium large formats, has been generating buzz due to some behind-the-scenes drama. Harry Styles fans in particular are excited about it because it marks his first significant acting role (he was earlier seen as part of the ensemble in Dunkirk). What's really going on, though, is a mid-budget ($35 million), star-driven, R-rated, unique high concept psychological thriller—a creature that is becoming rarer and rarer. In the 1950s, a woman in a business town has misgivings about the enigmatic organization that her husband works for.

Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, and Chris Pine are among the cast members, and it is her second film as a director after the critically acclaimed Booksmart (which made $22.7 million domestically and another $2.28 million internationally off a $6 million budget). Florence Pugh Styles is also a member of the cast.

Everything about this seems sound on the surface, but if there's a problem, it's the negative reviews. If people appreciate the movie, as is sometimes the case for the poorly reviewed franchise and genre movies that end up playing well, the 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes may not matter much at the box office. However, that is less likely for movies in the same genre as Don't Worry Darling. Even so, Styles has a sizable fan base and could generate at least a high teens to low 20s opening. In conjunction with the live-streamed Q&A from the premiere, which IMAX claims were their fastest-selling live event ever, we had already witnessed a number of sold-out performances from the special IMAX screenings on Monday. This and The Woman King will form a terrific one-two punch of success with the kinds of films that Hollywood seldom ever makes nowadays if the movie can garner some favourable word of mouth and decent legs.

The Woman King, which debuted with $19 million in revenue, should take second place because it is nearly certain to remain in the double digits after that due to excellent word-of-mouth and an A+ CinemaScore. The historical drama starring Viola Davis and based in West Africa will end the weekend with a cume that surpasses Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero's $34.9 million, making it the best earner during the current slump. In the long term, Don't Worry Darling might challenge The Woman King, but given the positive word of mouth and 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as the potential for an awards season win, The Woman King seems to be the one to back.

Third place should go to James Cameron's 2009 3D sci-fi epic Avatar, the weekend's other important wide release. When it first debuted, Avatar shattered the all-time domestic and international box office records, knocking James Cameron's own 1997 film Titanic off the top spot. Although Avatar has since slipped to fourth place on the domestic charts (with $760.5 million), it continues to hold the top spot globally (Avengers: Endgame overtook it in 2019; however, Avatar retook the top spot last year with a $57.7 million China re-release that. On December 16, the film's eagerly anticipated sequel will be released in 1,850 theatres (including IMAX and other premium big formats). Even though it can be challenging to extrapolate from re-release figures, if Avatar draws significantly larger crowds than the typical re-release, then this winter could set yet another record. The film is being rereleased internationally on more than 8,000 screens, about half of which is showing it in 3D.

Speaking of eagerly anticipated sequels, 52 years after the initial release of The Railway Children, Blue Fox Entertainment will release the semi-wide release of Railway Children this weekend. The original movie has become a household name in the UK, but the sequel, titled The Railway Children Return, has only made $3.46 million there since its premiere in July. This is Blue Fox's fourth release of the year, with The Wolf and the Lion ($2.07 million) bringing in the most money.

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