There was no defeating the mistress of all evil this past weekend.
Disney's "Maleficent," the live-action film based on the fairy-tale villain from "Sleeping Beauty," took in a bigger-than-expected $70 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada, according to an estimate from distributor Disney.
It's a solid opening for the $180 million 3-D film, which is directed by Robert Stromberg and stars Angelina Jolie in her return to the big screen. "Maleficent's" fast start may mean that Disney's 2013 live-action feature "Oz the Great and Powerful" is within reach. That film took in $79 million in a March opening and ultimately grossed $493 million globally.
"Any time you exceed an expectation, it's a happy day," said Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution. Hollis credited the effects-heavy look of the film, along with the writing by Linda Woolverton ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King") as draws. But truly casting the spell, Hollis said, was Jolie in a film that pivots its lens on the wicked villain of a Disney classic to explain her evil ways.
"A big star like Angelina Jolie does really create the kind of buzz and the kind of need-to-see mentality that a big movie like this has to have in order to succeed," Hollis said. "She transcends borders, cultures and languages."
"Maleficent" received an A from audience polling firm CinemaScore but only about 50 percent positive reviews on the critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. The summer tent-pole film brought out females (60 percent) and families (45 percent).
The weekend's other new entrant, Seth MacFarlane's R-rated comedy "A Million Ways to Die in the West," got left in the dust. MacFarlane's second directing effort took in $17.1 million over the weekend, falling short of initial projections that put the Universal Pictures film in the $20 million to $25 million range.
"Expectations weren't great," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "It was not that kind of film that you expect to forge into the marketplace with whopping numbers."
It was a stunted opening for the poorly reviewed raunchy comedy, which cost $40 million to make. The sendup, which stars MacFarlane alongside Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson, fell well below the $54 million opening of MacFarlane's 2012 R-rated summer box-office hit "Ted." That comedy, about a foulmouthed teddy bear, went on to snuggle up to $549 million worldwide.
Dethroned as the box-office ruler was last week's victor, "X-Men: Days of Future Past." After grossing more than $110 million during the long Memorial Day weekend, "X-Men" landed in second place with $32.6 million, bringing its domestic box-office total to an impressive $162.1 million and its global take to more than $500 million.
That left the latest reimagining of "Godzilla," from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, to settle into fourth place in its third week with $12.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $174.7 million.
Rounding out the top five was Warner Bros.' other film, "Blended," starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.
After a meager opening over the holiday weekend, the film took in $8.4 million this past weekend, bringing its total to about $29.6 million.