'Maleficent' casts powerful spell over box office

Angelina Jolie concocted quite the potion for theaters this weekend.

Her Sleeping Beauty companion film Maleficent enchanted the box office well beyond expectations, taking in $70 million, according to studio estimates from Rentrak.

The debut provided a storybook chapter for the film, which marked the largest debut of Jolie's career, eclipsing the $60.2 million bow for Kung Fu Panda in 2008.

Analysts projected about $50 million for the film.

But modernized fairy tales have been the rage in Hollywood: Last year Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters collected $55.7 million, while Snow White and the Huntsman stormed the box office with $155.3 million in 2012.

While critics were unimpressed with Maleficent —- only 50% of critics gave it a thumbs-up, says Rotten Tomatoes — fans were staunchly behind the fairy tale, giving it a collective "A," says pollsters CinemaScore.

The movie "overcame middling reviews and shows that Jolie remains a box office draw despite Maleficent being her first acting role since 2010" in The Tourist, says Tim Briody, analyst for Box Office Prophets.

The debut was plenty to dethrone X-Men: Days of Future Past, which dropped to second place with $32.6 million.

A Million Ways to Die in the West, Seth MacFarlane's raunchy comedy, underscored the perennial difficulty of Westerns at the box office. The film captured just $17.1 million and third place. Forecasters expected $25 million for the comedy, which also stars Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron.

Only a third of critics recommended the movie, which earned a middling "B" from moviegoers. Briody attributed the opening to "lousy reviews and all the best gags appearing in the trailer."

Godzilla took fourth place with $12.2 million, followed by the comedy Blended, which claimed fifth with $8.4 million. Final figures are due Monday.


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