Angelina Jolie concocted quite the potion for theaters this weekend.
Her Sleeping Beauty companion film Maleficent enchanted the box office well beyond expectations, taking in $70 million, according to studio estimates from Rentrak.
The debut provided a storybook chapter for the film, which marked the largest debut of Jolie's career, eclipsing the $60.2 million opening for Kung Fu Panda in 2008.
Analysts had projected about $50 million, but modernized fairy tales have been the rage in Hollywood: Last year, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters collected $55.7 million, while Snow White and the Huntsman stormed the box office with $155.3 million in 2012.
Though critics were unimpressed with Maleficent -- only 51% gave it a thumbs-up, says survey site Rotten Tomatoes -- fans were staunchly behind the fairy tale, giving it a collective "A," pollster CinemaScore says.
The movie "overcame middling reviews and shows that Jolie remains a box office draw, despite Maleficent being her first acting role since 2010" in The Tourist, says Tim Briody, analyst for Box Office Prophets.
The debut was plenty enough to dethrone X-Men: Days of Future Past, which dropped to second place with $32.6 million.
A Million Ways to Die in the West, Seth MacFarlane's raunchy comedy, underscored the perennial difficulty of Westerns at the box office. The film captured just $17.1 million and third place. Forecasters had expected $25 million for the comedy, which also stars Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron.
Only a third of critics recommended the movie, which earned a middling "B" from moviegoers. Briody attributed the opening to "lousy reviews and all the best gags appearing in the trailer."
Monster movie Godzilla took fourth with $12.2 million, followed by the comedy Blended, which claimed fifth with $8.4 million. Final figures are out today.
Original headline: 'Maleficent' casts a powerful spell over moviegoers
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