Two years in the making, Disney’s big-budget bet on Angelina Jolie, first-time director Robert Stromberg and the enduring appeal of classic fairytales has ended in satisfied relief for all parties. The epic production period – shooting began in June 2012, with seasoned director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) coming on board to assist Stromberg with eight days of reshoots in October 2013 – and a rumoured $180m (£107m) cost meant the studio was under intense pressure to deliver a hit. The UK Disney operation certainly delivered its end of the deal, with an opening here of £6.59m, including Wednesday/Thursday previews of £2.77m.
Including previews, that represents only the fifth best opening of 2014, behind X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Lego Movie and Bad Neighbours. Just going by Friday-to-Sunday tallies,Maleficent‘s debut places seventh for 2014 so far.
Obvious box-office comparisons for Maleficent are Snow White and the Huntsman, which began with a very similar £3.59m (and no previews) exactly two years ago, and Mirror Mirror, a commercially weaker performer that kicked off two months earlier with £2.39m including £1.25m in previews. Although not based on an equivalently classic fairytale, Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful might also be an apt comparison: it began in March 2013 with £3.71m, and no previews.
Stromberg previously served as production designer on Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful. Maleficent opened in the US at the weekend with $70m and internationally (ie outside the US) with $106m, for a $176m global total. China and Japan are yet to open.
In the UK, Disney took no chances with its film, opting not to show it to critics until the Sunday before release, despite being classified by the BBFC on 8 May, and embargoing reviews until the day the film arrived in cinemas. As it turns out, critical appraisals were on balance positive, with a 56/100 score at Metacritic. IMDb users currently rate the film at 7.5/10.
Despite robust competition from Maleficent and two other major studio releases (see below), X-Men: Days of Future Past posted what in the circumstances might be considered a decent hold, falling 53% with £3.52m. More significantly, the week as a whole (which coincided with the school half-term break) saw the X-Men film add a hefty £10m, for an 11-day tally of £19.47m. That’s ahead of the lifetime totals of X-Men (£14.98m), The Last Stand (£19.22m), reboot First Class (£15.03m) as well as spinoffs Origins: Wolverine (£16.38m) and The Wolverine (£13.70m) – it’s exceeded for the franchise only by X-Men 2’s final tally of £20.66m.
But there’s clearly plenty of gas in the tank for Days of Future Past – especially since World Cup football means that there are no more action blockbusters arriving for the whole month of June. A final UK gross that’s £10m ahead of recent X-Men/Wolverine efforts looks likely.