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 $19.2 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates 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% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and arrived in theaters with more baggage than any recent release.
For an original film that cost $35 million to make, a $19.2 million launch was solid - and slightly more than the studio had forecast. 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 theaters, was also no home run. Audiences gave it a B- CinemaScore, and ticket buyers fell off on Saturday after more promising results on Thursday and Friday. Warner Bros. said the audience was 66% female. The film added $10.8 million internationally.
Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros., 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.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore, 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 benefited 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 $11.1 million in its second weekend of release. That was a modest 42% 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.' rerelease of James Cameron's "Avatar" grossed $10 million domestically and $20.5 million internationally, 13 years after its initial run in theaters. Cameron's remastered "Avatar," playing in 1,860 theaters, was again especially popular in 3-D, which accounted for a whopping 93% of its domestic sales. A prelude to the upcoming December release of the long-awaited sequel "Avatar: The Way of Water," the rerelease further pads the all-time worldwide box office record for "Avatar," which now surpasses $2.85 billion.
Holding well in fourth place was "Barbarian," the Airbnb thriller from Disney and 20th Century Studios. In its third weekend of release, the film added 550 theaters and fell just 26% from the weekend prior. "Barbarian" has thus far grossed $28.4 million against a $4 million budget.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Don't Worry Darling," $19.2 million.
2. "The Woman King," $11.1 million.
3. "Avatar," $10 million.
4. "Barbarian," $4.8 million.
5. "Pearl," $1.9 million.
6. "See How They Run," $1.9 million.
7. "Bullet Train," $1.8 million.
8. "DC League of Super Pets," $1.8 million.
9. "Top Gun: Maverick," $1.6 million.
10. "Minions: The Rise of Gru," $1 million.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP