Hollywood loves a good fairy tale, and it's easy to see why: The stories are time-tested and widely known, they're in the public domain, and the fantastical elements provide fodder for the eye-popping visuals that drive tent-pole movies these days.
When such movies connect with audiences, they can rake in huge returns, but there's no guarantee of a happy ending. So how does Angelina Jolie's new Sleeping Beauty take, "Maleficent," which opened to a robust $69 million and mixed reviews over the weekend, stack up against recent live-action updates of classic fairy tales?
Pretty well, it seems. Looking at the past five years, "Maleficent" is already outpacing most of its smaller-scale brethren and the occasional big-budget flop, though it seems fated to fall short of the high bar set by "Alice in Wonderland." Here's a closer look.
"Oz: The Great and Powerful" (2013): Based not on the classic MGM film "The Wizard of Oz" but, instead, on the original L. Frank Baum books, and set 20 years before Dorothy's arrival, Sam Raimi's "Oz" became the first true blockbuster of last year when it opened in February.
Starring James Franco and Mila Kunis, the Disney film opened ahead of "Maleficent" but in the same ballpark, both commercially (with a $79-million opening weekend) and critically (59% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes, to "Mal's" 52%). "Oz" went on to tally $235 million domestically and an additional $258 million overseas. "Maleficent" could approach these numbers, though it would need to pick up the pace a little domestically, tough in a summer season of heavily marketed tent poles.
"Jack the Giant Slayer" (2013): Director Bryan Singer recently returned to the top of the box office with "X-Men: Days of Future Past," but his previous film, based on the myth of "Jack and the Beanstalk," was a dud. It opened to a paltry $28 million for Warner Bros., despite costing nearly $200 million to make. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" (2013): Written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola ("Dead Snow"), this update of the Grimm brothers' fairy tale found the titular siblings all grown up and exacting violent revenge on witches everywhere.
Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, the brash, R-rated 3-D gore-fest received poor reviews and earned just $55 million domestically — less than "Maleficent's" opening weekend — but it took in an additional $170 million overseas. The movie also cost just $50 million to make, much less than the $180 budget for "Maleficent." Paramount announced plans for a "Hansel and Gretel" sequel last year. (Given Jolie's international stardom, "Maleficent" should also do well overseas, where it has already collected more than $100 million.)
"Snow White and the Huntsman" (2012): With "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart and Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, in the title roles, this dark, brooding take on the "Snow White" tale performed reasonably well, opening to $56.3 million its first weekend and finishing its run with more than $396 million at the worldwide box office.
"Mirror Mirror" (2012): Released a few months before "The Huntsman," Relativity's competing "Snow White" movie, a bouncier take starring Lily Collins and Julia Roberts, launched with a lackluster $18-million weekend and ultimately collected $62 million domestically (on a $100-million budget). (It will be interesting to see whether "Maleficent" can surpass the combined totals of the two "Snow White" movies.)
"Red Riding Hood" (2011): Another fairy-tale fail for Warner Bros. Starring Amanda Seyfried, this gothic romance couldn't come close to replicating the success of director Catherine Hardwicke's 2008 smash "Twilight."
"Red Riding Hood" opened to a soft $14 million and finished with about $37 million domestically; it cost about $42 million to make. The film also received dreadful reviews and earned a so-so B-minus Cinemascore.
"Alice in Wonderland" (2010): The biggest hit of the bunch, Tim Burton's "Alice" starred frequent collaborator Johnny Depp and grossed a whopping $116 million its opening weekend, easily outpacing "Maleficent" and the other movies on this list. It would go on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide, demonstrating the genre's potential mass appeal.
Despite Hollywood's uneven track record sprucing up fairy tales for contemporary audiences, the trend doesn't seem to be in danger of dying out anytime soon. Among the adaptations currently in the works at various studios are "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," "Into the Woods," two "Jungle Book" movies and two Peter Pan projects.
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