Thanks in large part to girls and women, Maleficent debuted to a powerful $70 million from 3,948 theaters at the North American box office in a major win for star Angelina Jolie and Disney. Overseas, the live-action fairy tale took in an impressive $100.6 million for a worldwide total of $170.6 million.
Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West wasn’t so fortunate, underscoring the risky nature of Western-themed movies. The R-rated comedy, from Universal and Media Rights Capital, opened to a disappointing $17.1 million from 3,158 locations domestically — a fraction of the $54.5 million earned by MacFarlane’s Ted on the same weekend two years ago, or the $49 million debut of fellow Universal R-rated comedy Neighbors three weeks ago (Neighbors continues to dazzle, crossing the $200 million mark globally over the weekend).
Million Ways placed No. 3 after Maleficent and holdover X-Men: Days of Future Past, which fell 64 percent in its second weekend to $32.6 million for a domestic total of $162.1 million.
Maleficent — featuring Jolie as the infamous sorceress from Sleeping Beauty — marked the best opening of Jolie’s career. In North America, the movie bested the $60.2 million launch of Kung Fu Panda (2008), the $50.9 million grossed by Wanted (2008) and the $50.3 million debut of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005).
Observers believe Maleficent benefited greatly from targeting girls and moms, the same core audience that turned Disney’s Frozen into a global goliath. Females made up 60 percent of the audience, while 30 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 18. Maleficent, co-starring Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora and rated PG, also did sizeable family business (45 percent) after earning an A CinemaScore (reviews were decidedly mixed).
Overseas, Maleficent was especially strong in Latin America, representing Disney’s biggest live-action opening ever (excluding Marvel titles).
Still, Maleficent will need to do big business 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). Producer Joe Roth, the force behind Disney’s live-action fairy tales Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful, also guided Maleficent.
Maleficent didn’t match the $79 million debut of Oz the Great and Powerful in March 2013, or the $116 million opening of Alice in March 2010 (Disney notes that March is far less crowded than summer).
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 over the long Memorial Day holiday (the three day gross was $14.2 million). Both movies cost $40 million, so their financial risk is mitigated.
MacFarlane’s movie opened day and date in 21 foreign markets, grossing a subdued $10.3 million for a global opening of $27.3 million.
Even though MacFarlane — creator of Family Guy — boasts an enthusiastic, heavily male fan base, Westerns are an inherently tough sell. Also, the raunchy Neighbors is still doing big business in the marketplace, coming in No. 6 domestically with $7.7 million for a stellar domestic total of $128.6 million and world cume of more than $200 million.
Universal and Media Rights Capital reteamed to make Million Ways, which marks MacFarlane’s first turn in a leading role. The anachronistic Western boasts plenty of well-known stars in Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Neil Patrick Harris. Roughly 55 percent of ticket buyers were male, while 28 percent were under the age of 25.
Godzilla and Blended rounded out the top five at the domestic box office with $12.3 million and $8.4 million, respectively. Godzilla finishes the weekend with a domestic total of $174.7 million; Blended, $29.6 million.