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Box Office: ‘Maleficent’ Rules With $70 Mil, ‘Million Ways’ Stumbles

Maleficent” reigned over the weekend box office, as the Walt Disney Studios release debuted to a magical $70 million domestically and $100.6 million internationally, according to studio estimates.

Credit goes to matching an international star in Angelina Jolie with a vehicle that played to her regal appeal and cinema’s most pronounced cheekbones. It’s a sign that even in an age where bankable actors and actresses are an endangered species, the name above the title still carries weight.

Angelina Jolie is a very big part of the overall equation,” said Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios’ executive vice president of theatrical distribution. “As a star, she’s a draw that transcends culture and borders and language. There’s a universal nature to the intrigue she creates.”

Maleficent’s” stateside figure bested initial projections and ranks as a record domestic debut for Jolie, edging out “Kung Fu Panda” ($60.2 million), “Wanted” ($50.9 million) and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” ($50.3 million).

“Maleficent” took the lion’s share of the weekend spoils, leaving little for the weekend’s other major new release, “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” The Seth MacFarlane comedy bowed to a paltry $17.1 million across 3,158 locations. That anemic opening was below even Universal Picture’s modest mid-$20 million projections.

The raunchy comedy marked MacFarlane’s first starring role in front of the camera, but westerns are a tricky genre at the box office and critics lambasted the film, with Variety’s Scott Foundas griping that “the pacing is limper than a three-legged horse.”

Its opening numbers are a far cry from the $54.4 million opening that “Ted” enjoyed in 2012. The consolation for Universal Pictures, which co-financed the picture with Media Rights Capital, is that “A Million Ways to Die in the West” cost a relatively economical $40 million to produce. It will now look to foreign markets and ancillary revenue streams, such as cable rights and home entertainment sales, as it tries to break even or move into the black.

Internationally, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” opened in 21 markets, grossing an estimated $10.3 million. The studio will open the picture in 41 additional markets in the upcoming months.

Last weekend’s box office champion “X-Men: Days of Future Past” came in second in the domestic rankings. However, the superhero sequel fell sharply in its second week of release, dropping roughly 65% to $32.6 million. As a franchise, the “X-Men” films are opening weekend juggernauts, but often slide dramatically — sliding between 53% to 70% in their follow-up weekends. The $200 million sequel’s domestic total now stands at $162 million.

Disney planned an ambitious international roll-out for “Maleficent,” deploying the film in 13,011 theaters across 46 countries, representing about 75% of the total international footprint. The only major markets where it has yet to open are China, where it debuts on June 20, and Japan, where it hits on July 4. Hollis said internally the studio had expected a foreign debut in the $80 million range, a figure it easily eclipsed.

Audiences were more bewitched by “Maleficent”  than critics, handing the film an A CinemaScore rating. “Maleficent” currently has a middling 50% “rotten” ranking on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

In the U.S., the $180 million budgeted fantasy screened in  3,948 theaters, with a substantial chunk offering premium viewing options. Imax padded the domestic total, contributing $6.7 million to its haul from 347 screens, while 3D screens made up 21% of the windfall, once again demonstrating the challenge that format faces among families looking to economize.

To that end, families made up the bulk of “Maleficent’s” audience, comprising 45% of ticket-buyers, with the overall demographics weighted toward females, who represented 60% of crowds.

Though most major summer releases are front-loaded, making a big splash in their initial weekends before dropping off steeply, “Maleficent” could benefit from a lack of family-oriented films in the marketplace. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” doesn’t open until June 13, making “Maleficent” the only game in town when it comes to younger audiences.

“From a competitive standpoint we are in the unique position of being the beneficiary of a lack of competition,” Hollis said. “We are about to start a week where almost half of the country is out of school.”

The success of “Maleficent” pushed Disney to the $2 billion mark at the worldwide box office, a number it reached thanks largely to the success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Frozen.”

Rounding out the top five domestically, “Godzilla” added $12.2 million to its take while Adam Sandler’s “Blended” attracted $8.4 million.

Among the holdovers, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” dropped 52% to $3.8 million, which puts its domestic total at $192.7 million after a month in release, while “Neighbors” fell 42% to $7.7 million, placing its domestic total at $128.6 million.

In limited release, Jon Favreau’s “Chef” cooked up $2 million in 624 locations in its fourth week of release. The Open Road film will expand to over 1,000 locations next week.

Overall, the domestic box office stood at roughly $160 million for the weekend, essentially flat with last year.

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