'Woman King' rules North American box office
John Boyega, Thuso Mbedu, Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, and Sheila Atim star in "The Woman King," which premiered in Toronto and portrays the real-life 19th century female warriors of Dahomey, in present-day Benin Matt Winkelmeyer AFP/File

"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, 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 fell short, it would unfairly damage the prospects for future such endeavors.

Instead, boosted by a favorable critical reception -- "Reviews are sensational," said the FranchiseRe website -- it exceeded analysts' expectations, more than tripling the ticket sales of the next-highest finisher, 20th Century's "Barbarian."

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

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.

Rounding out the 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)

© Agence France-Presse