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‘Maleficent’ spooks box office

$70 million debut for twisted fairy tale

This photo released by Disney shows Angelina Jolie in a scene from the film, "Maleficent." (AP Photo/Disney, Frank Connor)

This photo released by Disney shows Angelina Jolie in a scene from the film, "Maleficent." (AP Photo/Disney, Frank Connor)

The biggest box office debut of Angelina Jolie’s career propelled Disney’s twisted fairy tale Maleficent to a scary-good $70 million opening.

The PG-rated fantasy beat forecasts to easily top all films over the weekend, according to studio estimates yesterday. Though Maleficent was early on considered a risky endeavor for Disney that might turn away family audiences by retelling Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s perspective, the film emerged as a hit largely because of the draw of Jolie.

Star power has been increasingly elusive in modern Hollywood, where name-brand concepts often rule the box office. But Jolie, in her first live-action starring role in years, drove interest for Maleficent despite lackluster reviews from critics.

“It’s a unique thing,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. “Her star power transcends borders and genre.”

Seth MacFarlane’s Western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West was out-gunned by Maleficent. The R-rated Universal release opened in third place with a tepid $17.1 million despite a starry cast of Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried. By contrast, MacFarlane’s Ted (for which he’s making a sequel) opened with $54.4 million in 2012.

Last weekend’s top film, Fox’s big-budget mutant sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past, dropped to second with $32.6 million. It’s a somewhat steep decline for Days of Future Past, but the film made $95.6 million internationally in its second week, good enough to push its global cumulative total past $500 million already.

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