‘The Woman King’ starring SA’s Thuso Mbedu rules American box office

Loosely based on a true historical episode, 'The Woman King' stars Viola Davis as the fierce general who leads an army known as the Agojie.

The Woman King, an epic about an all-female army of African warriors, easily topped the North American box office this weekend with an estimated take of $19 million (R386m), industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.

The new Sony release, loosely based on a true historical episode, stars Oscar-winner Viola Davis as the fierce general who leads an army known as the Agojie as it protects the 18th-century kingdom of Dahomey.

Days earlier, Davis told AFP that she felt “conflicted” because if the Black-led, woman-dominated film The Woman King fell short, it would unfairly damage the prospects for future such endeavours.

Instead, boosted by a favourable critical reception — “Reviews are sensational,” said the FranchiseRe website — it exceeded analysts’ expectations, more than tripling the ticket sales of the next-highest finisher after The Woman King, 20th Century’s Barbarian.

ALSO READ: ‘The Woman King’: Zozi Tunzi gets first acting role

That horror film tells the story of a woman (Georgina Campbell) who checks into an AirBnB rental in a sketchy Detroit neighbourhood only to find it has also been booked by an oh-so-creepy Bill Skarsgard. Barbarian took in $6.3 million (R112m) for the Friday-through-Sunday period.

In third place was a slasher film, Pearl, a new low-budget release from A24, with ticket sales just over $3.1 million (R55m). Mia Goth stars in a blood-soaked tale that involves the brutal use of both an axe and a pitchfork, on animals and humans. Enough said.

Searchlight’s comic mystery See How They Run placed fourth in its opening weekend, at $3.1 million (R55m).

Sam Rockwell stars as an often-inebriated Scotland Yard detective, Saoirse Ronan as his eager but hapless assistant, and Adrien Brody as a sleazy Hollywood director in London to make a film version of Agatha Christie classic The Mousetrap — until fate intervenes.

And in fifth place was Sony action thriller Bullet Train, starring Brad Pitt, at $2.5 million (R44m).

Rounding out the box office top 10 were:

  • Top Gun: Maverick ($2.2 million)
  • DC League of Super-Pets ($2.2 million)
  • The Invitation ($1.7 million)
  • Minions: The Rise of Gru ($1.3 million)
  • Moonage Daydream ($1.2 million)

Interesting facts aboutThe Woman King

  • According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Woman King is inspired by true events that took place in the Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • The story follows Nanisca (played by Viola Davis), the general of an all-female military unit, and Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), an ambitious recruit. Together, the pair fight enemies who violated their honour, enslaved their people and threatened to destroy everything they’ve lived for.
  • Star Wars’ John Boyega will play Dahomey’s ruler, King Ghezo.
  • Viola Davis is part of the film’s production team alongside the likes of Cathy Schulman, Julius Tennon, Maria Bello and Jack Blue. Director of Netflix’s ‘The Old Guard’ Gina Prince-Bythewood has been hired to direct the film.
  • Parts of The Woman King were reportedly filmed in Cape Town 
  • The South African reports that more local actors may appear in the cast of ‘The Woman King’ once it hits cinemas

Additional reporting by Kaunda Selisho

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