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‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ Heading for $45 Million Launch, Topping ‘Joker’

Angelina Jolie will topple Joaquin Phoenix from the North American box office throne as her ” Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ” should open in the $45 million range this weekend, while ” Zombieland: Double Tap ” will battle ” Joker ” for second place in the mid-$20 millions.

The film, told from the perspective of the sorceress in “Sleeping Beauty,” is pacing behind the first movie’s opening weekend of $69 million in 2014. “Maleficent” went on to become a box office smash, earning more than $750 million globally from a $180 million budget.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ” arrives at about 3,700 theaters, including over 2,300 3D locations, 380 Imax screens, 600 Premium Large Format screens and 135 D-Box/4D locations. It’s one of the few offerings appealing to female audiences after Warner Bros.’ ” Joker ” has dominated domestic moviegoing for the past two weeks.

The cast includes returnees Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville and newcomers Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Skrein and Chiwetel Ejoifor. Joachim Ronning, who co-directed “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” helmed “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” The story centers on Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora (played by Fanning) and the impact of Aurora’s upcoming marriage.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is also opening this weekend in all major international markets, starting on Wednesday with France, Scandinavia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. Disney has held premieres in London, Moscow and Rome in addition to the Sept. 30 premiere in Hollywood.

Joker” crossed the $200 million milestone on Monday, its 11th day of release, and should continue to pull in somewhere between $20 million and $30 million for Warner Bros. in its third weekend. That’s on par with Sony’s sequel ” Zombieland: Double Tap ,” which opens almost exactly a decade after the original at about 3,450 locations and is looking at an opening of around $25 million.

Like the original, the R-rated comedy-horror film is the only major studio horror film opening in October (STX’S “Countdown” opens next weekend) and the first major studio comedy since “Good Boys” opened in mid-August and wound up as the top-grossing live-action comedy of the year with $82 million.

Lead cast members Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone return to a world where many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie. They also face the growing pains of their own makeshift family, which spends much of the movie fending off zombie attacks.

“Venom” helmer Ruben Fleischer returns to direct from a script original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch have joined the cast. Sony spent $42 million on the sequel.

On the specialty front, Fox Searchlight is opening anti-hate satire ” Jojo Rabbit ” in a platform launch at two theaters in Los Angeles and three in New York. Director Taika Waititi plays Adolf Hitler, the imaginary friend and confidante of a 10-year-old member of the Hitler Youth.

Jojo Rabbit ” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last month and won the People’s Choice Award. Waititi, best known for helming “Thor: Ragnarok,” wrote and directed the film based on the novel “Caging Skies.” The wacky comedy also stars Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson.

 

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