Box Office: 'Maleficent' Soars in U.K., Bigger Than 'Captain America 2'

9:14 AM PST 05/29/2014 by Pamela McClintock
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
"Maleficent"

UPDATED: Angelina Jolie's live-action fairy tale also did double the business of "Oz the Great and Powerful" on its opening day.

Disney's female-skewing fairy tale Maleficent cast a powerful spell on the U.K. and Irish box office, where it opened to a stellar $2.5 million on Wednesday.

That's ahead of the first-day earnings of fellow Disney release Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and marks the biggest opening day ever for Angelina Jolie in those markets, as well as in Italy and the Philippines.

REVIEW: 'Maleficent'

Even more promising, Maleficent did more than double the business of Oz the Great and Powerful in the U.K. and Ireland.

Maleficent opens in every major territory this weekend save for China and Japan, as well as in North America, where it is expected to top the chart with a debut in the $60 million range.

Box-office observers believe Maleficent -- featuring Jolie as the infamous sorceress from Sleeping Beauty -- will benefit greatly from targeting girls and moms, as well as families, considering the glut of male-skewing tentpoles in the marketplace (Days of Future Past, Godzilla and The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora in the 3D movie, which taps into the same fan base that turned Disney's Frozen into a global goliath and marks Jolie's first appearance in theaters in four years.

Maleficent is not a cheap proposition, having cost $175 million to produce after reshoots (there was reportedly tension between Jolie and first-time feature director Robert Stromberg). Joe Roth, also the driving force behind Disney's Oz and Alice in Wonderland, produced Maleficent.

Seth MacFarlane also enters the fray with A Million Ways to Die in the West, which debuts in North America and a raft of international markets. He both directed and stars in the R-rated Western comedy, which is eyeing a debut in the $25 million range, well behind the $54.4 million launch 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) or the $49 million opening of fellow Universal comedy Neighbors three weeks ago.

Million Ways to Die is expected to come in No. 3 after Maleficent and Fox's Days of Future Past, which is expected to earn $38 million to $40 million in its second outing after opening to a dazzling $110.7 million over Memorial Day weekend.

Both Maleficent and Million Ways to Die have received decidedly mixed reviews (Maleficent is faring better).

Million Ways to Die cost only $40 million, far less than Maleficent. 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.

Even though MacFarlane boasts an enthusiastic, heavily male fanbase, 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.

Another big-budget tentpole, Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow, begins rolling out overseas this weekend a week ahead of its June 6 domestic launch.

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