Angelina Jolie's return to the big screen as a fairy-tale villain is likely to break "X-Men's" box-office spell as "Maleficent" hits theaters this weekend.
Disney's $180-million attempt to humanize the "Sleeping Beauty" antagonist is expected to gross $60 million or more in ticket sales from the United States and Canada through Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
That should easily be enough to make the 3-D "Maleficent" the highest-grossing movie of the weekend, unseating last week's box-office champion "X-Men: Days of Future Past" and outperforming "A Million Ways to Die in the West," the new R-rated Western comedy from Seth MacFarlane.
"Maleficent" retells the story Disney brought to the screen in 1959, this time from the perspective of the revenge-bent fairy who puts a curse on the human king's daughter Aurora.
The film marks Jolie's first live-action starring role since the 2010 romantic thriller "The Tourist" with Johnny Depp.
A $60-million opening for "Maleficent" would be a healthy sum and Jolie's best live-action opening ever. But it will have a difficult time matching Disney's 2013 live-action fantasy success "Oz the Great and Powerful," which opened to $79 million that March and ended up with a global gross of $493 million.
Robert Stromberg directed "Maleficent" from the screenplay by Linda Woolverton, whose writing credits include "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King" and Tim Burton's 2010 version of "Alice in Wonderland."
Rated PG and largely targeting women, "Maleficent" stands in clear contrast to Universal Pictures' "A Million Ways to Die in the West," a raunchy comedy from the creator of TV's "Family Guy" and the 2012 R-rated summer box-office hit "Ted."
MacFarlane's second directing effort is expected to spur $20 million to $25 million in ticket sales through Sunday.
It won't come close to "Ted" -- about a foul-mouthed teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane -- which opened with a surprising $54 million and went on to stuff a worldwide $549 million into its coffers.
"A Million Ways to Die," which cost $40 million to make, rides into theaters after an unexpectedly strong result from Universal's recent R-rated offering, the Seth Rogen and Zac Efron movie "Neighbors" that hauled $49 million in its bow.
In the Western send-up, MacFarlane tries his hand as a leading man alongside a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and a mustachioed Neil Patrick Harris.
Both "Maleficent" and the gunslinger gross-out fest could both be hampered by mixed reviews from critics, and the former seems to be faring better than the latter. "Maleficent" holds a 53% "fresh" rating on Rotten tomatoes as of Thursday, while "A Million Ways to Die" stands at 36%. However, mixed reviews didn't stop "Oz the Great and Powerful" or "Alice in Wonderland."
The vastly different newcomers also face formidable competition from holdovers including last weekend's opener "X-Men: Days of Future Past" that grossed more than $110 million during the long Memorial Day weekend. "X-Men" should land in second place this time around with around $40 million.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times