Box office preview: 'Maleficent' stares down 'A Million Ways to Die in the West'

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Angelina Jolie and her threatening cheekbones face off against Seth MacFarlane and his (somewhat equally threatening) comedy empire this weekend as Disney’s Maleficent debuts against Universal’s A Million Ways to Die in the West.

MacFarlane’s Ted might have been the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, but in this genre duel, much like his character in A Million Ways, MacFarlane will wither in the face of Disney’s scorned and vengeful fairy. That has nothing to do with the lifetime prospects of MacFarlane’s sophomore effort, of course. Comedies tend to open modestly — especially original ones. But we’re just talking opening weekends, and these two mismatched pics had the (mis?)fortune of choosing the same late-spring date.

Here’s how things might play out:

1. Maleficent — $58 million
Alice in Wonderland and Oz: The Great and Powerful‘s production designer Robert Stromberg took the director’s seat to adapt this live-action take on Sleeping Beauty‘s foe. Disney debuts its $180 million PG-rated film in 3,948 locations on Friday, many of which are 3-D and 346 of which are IMAX. The fantasy pic could see an opening in the high $50 millions, which would be a career high for star Angelina Jolie (not counting Kung Fu Panda), but significantly lower than Alice and Oz‘s March openings (although it is outperforming them overseas). Critics are also giving it mixed reviews (47 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). EW’s Keith Staskiewicz gave it a B- and wrote: “The characters are boiled down to their essentials, the humor is timelessly broad, and Jolie’s at her best when she’s curling her claws and elongating her vowels like a black-sabbath Tallulah Bankhead. Unfortunately, the story is more than a bit of a muddle, a string of sequences that shuttle the characters back and forth between the film’s sole two locations, a castle and a magic forest.”

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past — $40 million
Like most superhero and comic-based pics, X-Men: Days of Future Past is poised for a steep fall from last weekend’s debut. X-Men: First Class fell 56 percent in weekend two, and a somewhat similar decline can be expected here. In just six days in theaters, the Fox epic has made more than $346.4 million worldwide.

3. A Million Ways to Die in the West — $25 million
Seth MacFarlane directed and leads the star-studded cast of this R-rated ode to the Old West and crude humor. Featuring performances by Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sarah Silverman, and a host of high-profile cameos (some of which have been revealed/spoiled in the marketing), awareness should not be an issue here, and MacFarlane has a built-in fanbase from his television empire and lingering good will over Ted (which opened at $54.4 million in late June 2012). But reviews haven’t been great. When we published, its Rotten Tomatoes score was lingering at an iffy 39 percent (EW’s review is forthcoming online). Universal Pictures is releasing the comedy in 3,152 locations Friday, and tracking is putting the pic’s opening prospects in the low to mid-$20 million range. It’s also opening in 22 territories worldwide.

4. Godzilla — $10 million
The king of the monsters will probably fall another 60 percent in its third weekend in theaters. The invigorating Warner Bros. and Legendary re-imagining of the iconic monster has brought in more than $327 million worldwide to date.

5. Blended — $7 million
This is a little controversial, but thanks to its A- Cinema Score, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if Adam Sandler’s Blended remained in the top five in week two, even after its low $14.3 million debut. The other possibility for the spot is Neighbors, but that’s entering its fourth weekend in theaters and facing some stiff competition from the newness of A Million Ways.

In limited release, Magnolia Pictures is premiering its James McAvoy thriller Filth and the Swedish retro-pop charmer We Are the Best, Entertainment One rolls out The Grand Seduction in 100 locations, Cinedigm is releasing the Jesse Eisenberg-led environmental anarchist pic Night Moves, and Focus Features debuts its documentary Under the Electric Sky.

Check back this weekend for estimates and analysis.

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