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LOS ANGELES: "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."

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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)

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