Box Office: 'Maleficent 2' Stumbles to No. 1 With $36M; 'Joker' Snags Magical $29M

Walt Disney Studios
'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'

Elsewhere, 'Zombieland 2: Double Tap' opened to a solid $26.7 million, while Taika Waititi's 'Jojo Rabbit' laughed hard in its N.Y.-L.A. launch.

There was nothing magical about the domestic box office debut of the Angelina Jolie-starrer Maleficent: Mistress of Evil over the weekend.

The sequel stumbled to first place with $36 million from 3,790 theaters, well behind expectations and more than 45 percent behind the $69.4 million launch of Maleficent five years ago. It also supplanted Dumbo to mark Disney's lowest opening of the year so far (excluding Fox titles).

Maleficent 2's fate will now largely depend upon its performance overseas, where the first film made 68 percent of its total haul. The $185 million sequel bowed to $117 million from 56 material markets for an early worldwide total of $153 million, the third-biggest global start ever for the month of October. China led with $22.4 million, 15 percent ahead of the first film's start (in a surprise upset, Maleficent 2 beat Gemini Man, which started off with $21 million in China).

"Overall, we are seeing a solid start for the film around the world, although it's not as strong as we hoped for domestically. But we have a nice run up to Halloween and the audience reaction has been very positive," says Disney distribution chief Cathleen Taff.

Inspired by the villainous sorceress in Sleeping Beauty, the first Maleficent stunned in 2014 when it earned $758 million globally. In this age of franchise mania, a sequel was inevitable. But whether audiences really wanted a follow-up is another matter, although those that did show up bestowed Mistress of Evil with an A CinemaScore, the same grade as the first.

Maleficent 2 was originally set to debut in May 2020, but Disney moved up the release of the PG-rated pic to this year's Halloween corridor. Directed by Joachim Ronning from a script by Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, the sequel follows Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) as they question the ties that bind them together on the eve of the latter's nuptials. Michelle Pfeiffer also stars in the film as Queen Ingris, along with Juno Temple and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  

Todd Phillips and Warner Bros.' Joker continued to frolic in its third weekend, grossing $29.2 million from 4,090 theaters to come in second. Overseas, the pic took in another $77.9 million for a dazzling global cume of $737.5 million, including $490.3 million internationally — the fourth-biggest showing ever for a DC title, not adjusted for inflation.

Sony's Halloween offering Zombieland 2: Double Tap opened to a pleasing $26.7 million from 3,468 cinemas, in line with expectations and slightly ahead of the $24.7 million debut of the first Zombieland in 2009.

The R-rated film, which cost $42 million to produce after rebates and tax incentives, sees the return of Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson alongside newcomer Zoey Deutch in director Ruben Fleischer's decade-later sequel.

MGM and Bron's The Addams Family, from United Artists Releasing, came in fourth in its second weekend with $16 million for a domestic tally of $56.8 million.

Ang Lee's pricey miss Gemini Man continued to falter in its second weekend, dropping 59 percent in the U.S. to $8.5 million for a domestic cume of $36.5 million. Internationally, it took in another $33.4 million for a lackluster foreign tally of $82.2 million and $118.7 million globally. The pic had been counting on China to minimize its losses, but a $21 million bow is well behind expectations.

Elsewhere, filmmaker Lorene Scafaria's Hustlers made headlines when crossing the $100 million mark at the domestic box office. The crime drama, a big win for STXfilms, stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Styles and Keke Palmer. The pic finished Sunday with a global cume of $129.9 million.

Among new offerings at the awards box office, Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit —  an irreverent comedy about a German boy (Roman Griffin Davis) whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (Waititi) — opened in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles for an impressive location average of $70,000. The Fox Searchlight picture stars Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Thomasin McKenzie.

A24 and New Regency's The Lighthouse also fared nicely, posting a location average of $52,471 from eight cinemas. From filmmaker Robert Eggers (The Witch), the chiller stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as 1890s Maine lighthouse keepers locked in a battle of wills as a storm rages.

Among specialty holdovers, Bong Joon-ho's Parasite moved up the chart to No. 11 as it expanded into a total of 33 theater in its sophomore outing. The critically acclaimed South Korean film earned $1.2 million for a 10-day domestic total of $1.8 million in a win for indie distributor Neon.