Paramount’s gruesome ‘Smile’ tops box office

New psychological horror film “Smile” has Paramount executives beaming after topping the North American box office with an estimated $22 million in weekend ticket sales, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.

The film is the disturbing tale of a therapist (Sosie Bacon, daughter of actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) whose grasp on reality begins to slip after she witnesses a shocking and gruesome event involving a patient.

“This is an excellent opening, the kind that launches a new horror series,” said analyst David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research. Such horror films, he noted, tend to have low budgets but loyal audiences — two things studios love.

Indeed, another psychological horror film, Warner Bros.’ “Don’t Worry Darling,” placed second for the Friday-through-Sunday period, pulling in $7.3 million.

With Olivia Wilde acting and directing a cast that includes Florence Pugh, Chris Pine and pop icon Harry Styles, the film was last weekend’s Number One.

In third, also down one spot, was Sony’s history-inspired “The Woman King,” at $7 million. Oscar winner Viola Davis stars as the leader of an all-female army of African warriors.

Fourth place went to Universal’s new release “Bros,” at $4.8 million. Gross said reviews for the movie — a rare gay romantic comedy from a major Hollywood studio — were “outstanding” thanks to its “knowing and relatable” humor. Billy Eichner co-wrote and stars in the film.

And in fifth was the re-release of 20th Century’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar,” at $4.7 million. The studio is hoping the original will help build interest in a high-budget ($250 million) sequel due in December, “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Rounding out the top 10 were:

“Ponniyin Selvan: Part One” ($4.1 million)

“Barbarian” ($2.8 million)

“Bullet Train” ($1.4 million)

“DC League of Super-Pets” ($1.3 million)

“Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.2 million) — Agence France-Presse