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Women and Gen Z Drive ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Box Office

Never underestimate the interest in ogling a cute guy on a big screen.

Harry Styles, the white-hot musician, sex symbol and fledgling movie star, powered the critically drubbed and controversy-entangled “Don’t Worry Darling” to a solid $19.2 million in estimated ticket sales at North American cinemas over the weekend. That No. 1 total was propped up by more than $3 million in preview screenings from earlier in the week.

Women made up 66 percent of the audience, according to Warner Bros., the studio behind the $35 million film, with an unusually large 52 percent of ticket buyers under the age of 25.

“Don’t Worry Darling,” an R-rated romantic mystery co-starring Florence Pugh and directed by Olivia Wilde, who also acted in it, received a B-minus grade from moviegoers in CinemaScore exit polls. It played in 4,113 theaters in the United States and Canada.

“Don’t Worry Darling” collected an additional $10.8 million overseas, in 61 markets.

Reviews were mostly negative, and Wilde and her film generated a torrent of unfavorable prerelease publicity, with Wilde getting into a public tit for tat with Shia LaBeouf, who was originally hired for the role that Styles ended up playing; Pugh seeming to actively resist promoting the film, leading to reports of a rift between herself and Wilde. In August, Pugh voiced discomfort about an emphasis on sex in “Don’t Worry Darling” marketing materials. (“Reduced to your sex scenes” is how she put it, speaking to Harper’s Bazaar. “It’s not why I’m in this industry.”)

Overall, was a quiet weekend at the domestic box office as theaters continue to struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, in part because of a limited supply of new movies from studios. Ticket sales totaled about $60 million, compared to $123 million for the same weekend in 2019.

“The Woman King” (Sony) was second at the box office derby, collecting about $11.1 million, for a two-week total of $36.3 million, according to Comscore, which compiles ticketing data. The rerelease of James Cameron’s 13-year-old “Avatar” (Walt Disney Studios) generated about $10 million, on par with expectations.

Cameron remastered “Avatar,” but the primary reason for the film’s re-emergence in theaters (and its disappearance from Disney+) involved wetting the public’s appetite for a sequel. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” is set for release on Dec. 16 and needs to generate at least $1 billion at the global box office to be considered successful. (The first one ranks as Hollywood’s No. 1 ticket seller, with $2.9 billion in global sales.) Cameron is also working on a third “Avatar” and has announced plans for two additional chapters.

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