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Angelina Jolie‘s live-action fairy tale Maleficent is enchanting audiences, grossing a pleasing $4.2 million Thursday night in North America from more than 3,000 theaters. Overseas, the Disney tentpole has earned $20.1 million in its first two days.
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 comes on the heels of Disney’s femme-fueled global juggernaut Frozen and marks Jolie’s first appearance in theaters in four years.
Maleficent bested the $3.9 million earned in midnight runs by fellow Disney live-action fairy tale Alice in Wonderland in March 2010 and the $2 million grossed by Oz the Great and Powerful in March of last year upon rolling out at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Disney noted that plenty of adults turned out Thursday night for Maleficent, and that 46 percent of ticket buyers were male, reflected in the fact that Imax locations turned in $560,000, or 13.3 percent of the $4.2 million.
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.
Disney’s Maleficent has a strong shot at crossing $60 million in its domestic launch and pushing holdover X-Men: Days of Future Past out of the top perch at the box office. The movie 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).
Seth MacFarlane also enters the fray with A Million Ways to Die in the West, which took in $891,000 Thursday night after rolling out at 8 p.m. The Family Guy creator both directed and stars in the R-rated Western comedy, which is eyeing a debut in the $25 million range, well shy of the $54.4 million debut for 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).
Comparisons are difficult, but 21 Jump Street took in $700,000 on its first Thursday night. For the weekend, the Sony comedy debuted to $36.2 million.
Million Ways to Die is projected 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.
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 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.
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