“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” Debuted At A Mediocre $36 million

Published on October 21, 2019

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” hit the big screen this past weekend, but it failed to gain high numbers in North America. The release of the second film in the “Maleficent” series comes five years after the first. Even big names such as, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning couldn’t produce the excitement it needed to get people to the box office.

The Numbers

According to Variety, the film collected a disappointing $36 million in North America. This didn’t even compare to the $185 million the film cost to produce. It was also a significantly smaller number than the first film “Maleficent” earned in 2014. The first film debuted at almost $70 million in North America and earned $758 million internationally.

There is some hope, though. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” gained $117 million internationally over the past weekend. Similar to the first movie, it seems to be doing very well overseas. The first film earned $500 million internationally, which was double what it made in North America, according to Variety. The slow start in North America means the film will need to put up more big numbers from the international box offices.

“Overall, we are seeing a solid start for the film around the world, although it’s not as strong as we hoped for domestically. But we have a nice run up to Halloween and the audience reaction has been very positive,” Disney distribution chief Cathleen Taff told the Hollywood Reporter.

So Why Did It Perform So Poorly?

Low numbers might have something to do with the five year gap between the first and second film. “Maleficent” was a big hit back in 2014. The reimagined Sleeping Beauty narrative boded well with audiences, so creating a sequel made sense. According to the Hollywood Reporter,  Disney originally wanted “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”  to premiere in May 2020. However, Disney decided a Halloween-time premiere date fit the film’s theme, thus giving it an October 2019 release. Still, the large time gap might have hindered the second film’s success.

Warner Brother’s “Joker” might also be a factor in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’s” low debut. “Joker” hit the box office on Oct. 4 and has continued to do well over the past several weeks. Senior media analyst with Comscore Paul Dergarabedian told Variety “Joker” is performing similar to a “summer blockbuster.”

“It’s creating that competitive [popcorn season] environment in October, and it’s proved to be very formidable competition to every movie out there,” Dergarabedian said.

The Film’s Reception

With such low numbers, the film became Disney’s lowest opening of the year. It has also received rather negative critic reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critics gave the film a 40 percent average. Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Morgenstern called the film a “dull sequel” in comparison to the “not-so sparking 2014 original.” However, the audience score sits at a solid 96 percent. This is a promising sign for Disney. The positive audience reaction and Halloween premiere date will hopefully bring in more viewers.

“We’re optimistic about the overall performance,” Taff said. “With great word of mouth, audiences will gravitate to the film.”

Ashli Ellerman is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. A graduate of University of Missouri's Columbia School of Journalism, she's a former editor at Vox. She covers music brands and breaking consumer news at Grit Daily.

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