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‘The Woman King’ Surprises With $19 Million at the Box Office

It doesn’t have to be all sequels and superheroes.

The Woman King,” an original war drama starring Viola Davis, collected a strong $19 million in ticket sales for Sony Pictures Entertainment over the weekend, at least 25 percent more than analysts had expected. It was the best September opening for a similar film — pedigreed, awards-oriented, based on historical events — since Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” in 2016.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood from a screenplay by Dana Stevens, “The Woman King” focuses on the Agojie, an all-female warrior troop in Africa in the 1800s. The trailer and other preview materials for the film prompted calls for a boycott on social media over concerns that it glossed over or ignored aspects of the slave trade. But “The Woman King” received rapturous reviews. More important, ticket buyers gave the PG-13 movie an A-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, which bodes well for “you’ve got to go see it” word of mouth.

With little competition for older ticket buyers in the weeks ahead, “The Woman King” could ultimately generate $100 million or more in the United States and Canada, box office analysts said. “These movies play to healthy multiples during their holdover weeks,” said David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a film consultancy.

About 58 percent of the audience for “The Woman King” was over the age of 35, according to Sony, with 39 percent over 45. Black moviegoers made up 59 percent of the audience, with white ticket buyers the second-largest group.

The R-rated “Barbarian” (from 20th Century Studios, a Disney division) was second at the domestic box office over the weekend, with about $6.3 million in ticket sales, for a two-week total of $20.9 million. The low-budget slasher prequel “Pearl” (A24) arrived in third place, collecting $3.1 million.

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