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‘Don’t Worry Darling’ shrugs off drama, opening with USD19.2M

Jake Coyle

AP – After off-screen drama threatened to consume Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, the Warner Bros release opened No 1 at the box office, debuting with USD19.2 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

Starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, Don’t Worry Darling was engulfed by a storm of controversies that revolved around everything from Pugh’s allegedly strained relationship with Wilde to whether Styles might have even spit on co-star Chris Pine at the film’s Venice Film Festival premiere (Styles denied it). The movie, too, was torched by critics (38 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and arrived in theatres with more baggage than any recent release.

For an original film that cost USD35 million to make, a USD19.2 million launch was solid – and slightly more than the studio had forecast.

Gemma Chan (L) and Florence Pugh in a scene from ‘Don’t Worry Darling’. PHOTO: AP

A large number of moviegoers – including plenty of Styles fans – turned up to see what all the fuss was about. But the release of Don’t Worry Darling, playing in 4,113 theatres, was also no home run.

Audiences gave it a B- CinemaScore, and ticket buyers fell off on Saturday after more promising results last Thursday and Friday. Warner Bros said the audience was 66 per cent female. The film added USD10.8 million internationally. Distribution Chief for Warner Bros Jeff Goldstein estimated that “the background noise had a neutral impact”. The studio, he said, was “pleased with these results given our modest production budget”.

The audience scores and tapering-off ticket sales suggest Don’t Worry Darling may struggle to hold well in the coming weeks. But its good-enough debut means that Wilde’s film didn’t turn into the complete fiasco that some pegged it to be.

Senior Media Analyst for data firm Comscore Paul Dergarabedian said that, ultimately, bad publicity was good publicity for Wilde’s follow-up to her directorial debut, the 2019 teen comedy Booksmart.

“The latest from Olivia Wilde benefitted from the heightened awareness and mainstream press coverage that made Don’t Worry Darling the virtual water cooler film of the moment and raised its FOMO factor to even greater heights and this paid big dividends at the box office,” said Dergarabedian.

Last week’s top film, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s African epic The Woman King, starring Viola Davis, slid to second place with USD11.1 million in its second weekend of release. That was a modest 42 per cent dip for the Sony Pictures release, a sign of resiliency for the acclaimed action drama.

Third place went to a familiar box-office force. The Walt Disney Co’ re-release of James Cameron’s Avatar grossed USD10 million domestically and USD20.5 million internationally, 13 years after its initial run in theatres. Cameron’s remastered Avatar, playing in 1,860 theatres, was again especially popular in 3D, which accounted for a whopping 93 per cent of its domestic sales. A prelude to the upcoming December release of the long-awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, the re-release further pads the all-time worldwide box office record for Avatar, which now surpasses USD2.85 billion.