‘MALEFICENT’: Angelina Jolie’s villainous screen return soars with $70M debut at box office


Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. (Disney via AP.)

ANGELINA JOLIE’s CGI cheekbones cut clean through the competition at the box office.

With Jolie returning to the screen for the first time in four years — as the reimagined “Sleeping Beauty” villain in Disney’s latest visual dazzler — “Maleficent” grossed $70-million in its domestic debut to win the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday; final numbers are due Monday.

It’s the best opening of the year by a film featuring a woman in the lead or title role.

“Maleficent” is elevated by Jolie’s commanding performance, and deepened by the meta-narrative of the actress’s own life as a mother and double mastectomy patient. (There are moments for adult filmgoers that ring as clear metaphor of Jolie’s recent medical journey, including her reconstructive surgery.)

“Malificent’s” audience was 60-percent female, and 51-percent older than 25, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

“As a star, she’s a draw that transcends culture and borders and language,” Disney Studios theatrical-distribution executive Dave Hollis said of Jolie, in speaking to Variety. “There’s a universal nature to the intrigue she creates.”

Disney Classics.
Disney Classics.

There is a disparity between the filmgoers and the film reviewers. “Maleficent” gets an “A” from CinemaScore, but only a “51″ from critics, according to RottenTomatoes.com.

“Maleficent” is Disney’s latest CGI-heavy attempt at reinventing classics from its vault — a strategy jump-started by 2010′s “Alice in Wonderland” from Tim Burton, which grossed more than $1-billion globally. “Maleficent,” of course, is a reimagining of 1959′s animated “Sleeping Beauty” that — as the production “Wicked” did with “The Wizard of Oz” — tells the tale from the viewpoint of its original magical villain.

“Maleficent” left another new film, Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” in the dust; the Western comedy grossed only $17.1-million. “Million Ways” finished third, also trailing the previous weekend’s champ, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which grossed $32.6-million and now has topped $162-million domestically.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

* “Maleficent” is the biggest domestic debut of Jolie’s career, topping her “Kung Fu Panda,” which opened to $60.2-million in 2008.

* “Maleficent” had the fifth-biggest domestic debut of the year (after “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”; “Godzilla”; “Amazing Spider-Man 2″; and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” — all of which did north of $90-million). It’s also Disney’s second biggest opening of the year, after “Captain America.”

* By point of comparison in Disney’s New Spins on Old Classics: 2010′s “Alice in Wonderland” opened domestically to $116.1-million; last year’s “Oz, the Great and Powerful” opened to $79.1-million; and 2012′s “Snow White and the Huntsman” opened to $56.2-million.

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