We're about to see whether all the drama offscreen will help — or hurt — Olivia Wilde's 'Don't Worry Darling' at the box office

·3 min read
Florence Pugh in a dress
Florence Pugh in "Don't Worry My Darling."Warner Bros./New Line Cinema
  • "Don't Worry Darling" arrives in theaters this weekend after months of offscreen gossip.

  • Analysts are bullish about the movie, which is expected to rake in at least $20 million in its debut.

  • But it faces poor reviews and competition in the "Avatar" re-release and "The Woman King."

Warner Bros' "Don't Worry Darling" arrives in theaters this weekend after a press cycle shrouded in drama. The big question on industry watchers' minds: Will all the attention help or hurt its box-office chances?

For those who haven't been severely online over the last few months, "Don't Worry Darling" has received a lot of attention, largely for behind-the-scenes gossip rather than the movie itself.

It's included reports that star Florence Pugh wasn't participating in publicity for the movie over a feud with director Olivia Wilde; Wilde's assertion that actor Shia LaBeouf was fired from the movie, which LaBeouf disputed; and a video from the movie's debut at the Venice Film Festival that observers thought showed Harry Styles spit on his costar, Chris Pine (all of which Wilde has downplayed, most recently in an interview with Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show").

"The whole experience has sort changed my way of thinking about the internet, how we choose to interact with it, or not," Wilde told Colbert.

Box-office experts are bullish about the movie. Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro, wrote in his Thursday forecast that the movie should "at least come in above prior long-range forecasts thanks to the snowballing momentum generated by media headlines," and noted that there has been strong advance ticket sales.

"Don't Worry Darling" earned $3 million on Thursday (including early Imax showings on Monday), according to Forbes. For comparison, "The Woman King' nabbed $1.7 million in its first Thursday last week and went on to make $19 million for the weekend.

Robbins noted that "Don't Worry Darling" might be front-loaded in its premiere, and projected about a $22 million opening for the weekend — which wouldn't be too shabby for a movie that cost $35 million to make that isn't based on pre-existing IP.

But there's still reason for caution. Professional critics have not been kind to the movie, and it currently has a 36% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.

"It staggers across the finish line as it asks us to consider something profound, a great re-awakening that will lead to a mighty reckoning for the movie's bad men," Richard Lawson wrote for Vanity Fair. "We don't get to see that bit, though, because 'Don't Worry Darling' has used up all its tricks."

The buzz surrounding it and potential word of mouth will have to make up for the poor critic response. Early audience reaction is more positive in that case, as it has an 87% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes based on early screenings.

It will have some competition this weekend in "Avatar," which Disney is re-releasing ahead of the sequel's December debut, and "The Woman King," which topped the box office last weekend and should ride a wave of audience enthusiasm (it received a coveted A+ grade from CinemaScore, which surveys audiences on a movie's opening night).

At any rate, "Don't Worry Darling" is still expected to top the box office at a time when studio releases have been scarce and theaters are starving for new content.

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