Box Office: 'Maleficent' Enchants With $24.2M Friday; 'Million Ways' Ambushed

8:37 AM PST 05/31/2014 by Pamela McClintock

UPDATED: Angelina Jolie's live-action fairy tale is headed for a victorious $65 million-plus weekend; Seth MacFarlane's Western comedy may struggle to get to $17 million.

Disney's female-fueled summer tentpole Maleficent is conjuring up powerful business at the North American box office, where it topped Friday's chart with $24.2 million from 3,948 theaters. Tapping into the same audience that made Frozen a global Goliath, the live-action fairy tale is a passion project for star Angelina Jolie, who hasn't been seen in theaters for four years.

Maleficent -- featuring Jolie as the infamous sorceress from Sleeping Beauty -- is projected to open in the $65 million-plus range for the weekend, easily enough to come in No. 1. Observers believe the movie is benefiting greatly from targeting girls and moms, as well as families, considering the glut of male-skewing tentpoles in the marketplace (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla and The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora in the 3D movie.

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Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West isn't so fortunate. The R-rated Western comedy, from Universal and Media Rights Capital, took in a bleak $6 million from 3,158 locations for a projected debut in the $16 million to $17 million range. That's dramatically behind the $54.4 million debut of MacFarlane's Ted on the same weekend two years ago (Ted went on to become the top-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time, earning $549.4 million globally) and the $49 million debut of fellow Universal comedy Neighbors three weeks ago.

Million Ways to Die is projected to come in No. 3 after Maleficent and Fox's Days of Future Past, which is expected to place No. 2 with $33 million-plus.

On Friday, Maleficent -- earning an A CinemaScore -- paced on par with Oz the Great and Powerful, which debuted to roughly $79 million in March 2013. However, Disney cautions that more kids are out of school in summer, hence Maleficent could be front-loaded and do more business on Friday than Oz did. Also, March is far less crowded.

Overseas, Maleficent began rolling out Wednesday, grossing a strong $20.1 million in its first two days from 35 territories including Russia, Germany, Australia, the U.K., Korea and Brazil.

Still, Maleficent will need to do powerful business worldwide over the course of its run, having cost $175 million to produce after reshoots (there was reportedly tension between Jolie and first-time feature director Robert Stromberg).

Million Ways to Die, earning only a B CinemaScore and poor reviews, marks the second studio comedy to disappoint after Adam Sandler's Blended, which debuted to $17.7 million last weekend over the long Memorial Day holiday (the three day gross was $14.2 million). Both movies cost $40 million, so the financial risk is mitigated.

Even though MacFarlane boasts an enthusiastic, heavily male fan base, Westerns are an inherently tough sell. Universal points out that an opening north of $20 million would be a victory considering the film's budget. Overseas, the R-rated comedy debuts day-and-date in 22 foreign territories

Universal and Media Rights Capital reteamed to make the movie, which marks MacFarlane's first turn in a leading role. The anachronistic Western also stars Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris.

Godzilla placed No. 4 Friday with $3.3 million for a projected $11 million weekend, putting the movie's domestic total at roughly $173 million.

Neighbors and Blended essentially tied on Friday for No. 5 with $2.4 million each (Neighbors held a slight edge).

Here are the top 10 estimates for Friday, May 30, at the domestic box office:

Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Friday Total, Cume

1. Maleficent, 1/3,948, Disney, $24.2 million.

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2/4,001, Fox, $9.4 million, $138 million.

3. A Million Ways to Die in the West, 1/3,158, Universal/MRC, $6.1 million.

4. Godzilla, 3/3,501, Warner Bros./Legendary, $3.3 million, $165.7 million.

5. Neighbors, 4/2,393, Universal, $2.4 million, $123.3 million.

6. Blended, 2/3,555, Warner Bros., $2.36 million, $23.6 million.

7. Million Dollar Arm, 3/2,329, Disney, $1.03 million, $25.4 million.

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 5/2,152, Sony, $1.01 million, $190 million.

9. Chef, 4/624, Open Road Films, $500K, $5.4 million.

10. The Other Woman, 6/1,114, Fox, $435K, $80.1 million.

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