Maleficent casts spell over box office, halts X-Men uprising

Stills from Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. -- PHOTO: DISNEY ENTERPRISES
Stills from Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. -- PHOTO: DISNEY ENTERPRISES

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Maleficent, Walt Disney's special-effects laden take on Sleeping Beauty's wicked fairy godmother, captivated moviegoers, collecting US$70 million (S$87.8 million) in ticket sales to win the North American weekend box office stakes.

The movie starring Angelina Jolie as the black-robed villain finished far ahead of last week's winner, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which took US$32.6 million at US and Canadian theatres.

Seth MacFarlane's western comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West was third with US$17.1 million for the three days from Friday to Sunday, according to box office tracking firm Rentrak.

Produced for US$180 million, Maleficent received mixed reviews but opened strongly with Us$4.2 million on Thursday night and conjured up more than 80 per cent of advance ticket sales for the weekend, according to movie ticketing site Fandango.

The film is the latest in a line of reimagined classics, following Alice In Wonderland in 2010 and Oz The Great And Powerful in 2013.

Industry experts forecast the film would open with US$55 million, according to the movie site Box Office Mojo. "We're very excited with this start," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Walt Disney Studios, noting it hoped for an opening of around US$60 million. Maleficent took in another US$100 million at overseas box offices.

Hollis said momentum built through weekend on positive word of mouth. With schools beginning to let out and a "general absence of family product in this marketplace," Disney was optimistic for the film continuing its strong performance.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past, with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in the seventh instalment based on the Marvel Comic series, has collected more than US$162 million in sales in domestic theatres since its May 23 release and has generated US$500 million worldwide in just two weeks, distributor Fox said.

A Million Ways To Die In The West," MacFarlane's second time directing a live action film after his 2012 hit Ted about a foul-mouthed toy bear, disappointed in its opening weekend.

Studio and industry projections had anticipated a haul of about US$20 million to US$25 million for the modestly budgeted (US$40 million) film which stars MacFarlane along with Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris.

The film received tepid reviews with only 33 per cent of 128 critics giving it a "fresh" rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site.

Godzilla, the latest installment of the 60-year-old series about a giant lizard, was fourth with US$12.2 million. Made for US$160 million, the special effects infused film has generated US$175 million domestically since it was released on May 16.

Blended, a romantic comedy pairing Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in their third film, was fifth with US$8.4 million. They play single parents stuck at a resort in Africa. X-Men: Days Of Future Past was distributed by Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox. Universal, a unit of Comcast, released A Million Ways To Die In The West. Godzilla and Blended were distributed by Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner.