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Box office: Olivia Wilde’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ just misses out at being September’s first $20 million opener

Things were looking only slightly brighter at the box office with the release of Olivia Wildes sophomore feature, the thriller “Don’t Worry Darling,” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, especially after it took in $3.1 million in Thursday previews (which also included sold-out Monday IMAX shows). With $9.4 million grossed on Friday in 4,113 theaters (which includes that $3.1 million), the anticipated movie ended up being front-loaded, though, winding up with an estimated $19.2 million for the weekend, just slightly better than the opening of Viola Davis’ “The Woman King” last weekend.

Regardless of any negative reviews and the tabloid gossip surrounding the film, audiences seemed to enjoy the movie, as it received a CinemaScore of “B-” (same as last week’s “Pearl”), and its Audience Score at Rotten Tomatoes was at 80%. “Don’t Worry Darling” also grossed $10.8 million overseas this weekend, including a $3.1 million debut in the United Kingdom.

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historic epic “The Woman King” took second place with $11.2 million, a negligible 41% drop that led to a 10-day total of $36.3 million. We’ll have to see if the movie’s “A+” CinemaScore keeps it rolling through October with new wide release each week.

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Disney/20th Century Studios re-released James Cameron’s 2009 Oscar-winning sci-fi fantasy epic “Avatar” into 1,860 3D and IMAX 3D theaters, and the premium price for tickets helped it deliver an estimated $10 million this weekend to take third place after making $3.3 million on Friday. It made another $20.5 million overseas, a good sign that audiences are interested enough in revisiting the world of Pandora, so that December’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” could prove to be a substantial blockbuster hit.

The big surprise of September has to be Zach Creggers’ horror film “Barbarian,” which Disney/20th Century expanded into 2,890 theaters on Friday after a relatively moderate opening earlier in the month. For the second weekend in a row, “Barbarian” had a negligible drop-off of 26% to take fourth place with $4.8 million. What’s interesting about the movie’s post-opening success is that in the past, horror movies would normally be very front-loaded, doing most of their business on opening weekend. That no longer seems to be the case, going by “Barbarian,” which is becoming a significant word-of-mouth hit with $28.4 million so far.

Moviegoers’ fervent desire for horror also helped Ti West and Mia Goth’s “Pearl” sustain decent business in its second weekend despite a lower-than-expected opening. The “X” prequel dropped to fifth place with $1.9 million, which was just 38% off from its opening weekend, having grossed $7.1 million so far.

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The Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan murder-mystery comedy “See How They Run” took sixth place just $20,000 behind “Pearl” (according to estimates), down 37% from its opening weekend. It has made $1 million less than the Ti West horror film, which means it’s not doing as well during the week.

Sony’s “Bullet Train” took seventh place with $1.8 million, followed by “DC League of Super Pets” with slightly less.

Filmmaker Brett Morgen’s Bowie film “Moonage Daydream” expanded into 733 theaters on Friday, but it only was able to bring in $922,000 without the IMAX bump, so it was down 25% from its opening weekend. That was enough to remain in the top ten for a second weekend, though.

Sanaa Latham’s “On the Come Up,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, also opened semi-wide into 603 theaters. It was also streaming on Paramount+ with a theatrical release that was barely advertised, so it was no surprise that it tanked with $150,000, only $249 per theater.

Most players in this week’s Gold Derby box office prediction game had the top four movies correct and predicted that “Don’t Worry Darling” would be #1 with less than $25 million, but fifth place will be the real game decider. That position was split fairly evenly between “Pearl,” “Bullet Train” and “Moonage Daydream,” but things are so close between “Pearl” and “See How They Run” (picked by eight users for fifth place), we could see a surprise when actual numbers are reported on Monday.

Six players went 6 for 6 in the September 16 game, but “MellowDrama” pulled out another victory with the highest point score.

On Friday, Universal will release Billy Eichner’s comedy “Bros” and Paramount piles on the horror with the high-concept “Smile.” Check back on Wednesday for a preview of that weekend, and also sometime this week, look out for Gold Derby’s October box office preview.

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