Where the Crawdads Sing (2021): Directed by Olivia Newman (Women in Film)

July 15–

Where the Crawdads Sing debuted in third place with better-than-expected $17 million from 3,650 cinemas, easily the best start among newcomers.

That’s an impressive start for this kind of movie, especially at a time when television has become a haven for literary favorites. And Sony spent just $24 million to produce the film so it won’t be impossible to turn a profit.

Directed by Olivia Newman, the story follows a young girl named Kya (starring Daisy Edgar-Jones from “Normal People” and “Fresh”), who grows up alone in a North Carolina marsh and later is engulfed in a murder trial of former love interest. Reese Witherspoon produced the movie, which features new song from Taylor Swift called “Carolina.”

“In past years, dramas of all kinds were a workhorse genre,” says David A. Gross, who runs movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “But attendance patterns have changed and most of these stories are now produced for the small screen. That makes this opening particularly good.”

Critics and audiences had vastly different reactions to Where the Crawdads Sing, which holds a bleak 36% on Rotten Tomatoes but a solid “A-” CinemaScore from moviegoers. With positive word-of-mouth, however, the movie has the potential to stand out to people who aren’t familiar with the best-selling book by Delia Owens.