Maleficent: Mistress of Evil lead the box office as expected this weekend, however, the debut wasn’t nearly as magical as Disney was hoping for. Box Office Mojo is reporting a take of $36.9 million, which is roughly half of what the original Maleficent opened to in 2014. The opening was also lower than that of the studio’s Dumbo remake from earlier this year, which was generally considered underwhelming from a financial standpoint even as the film did eventually cross the $100 million mark.
Why didn’t Maleficent fly higher? The simple answer might be the timing of the release date, which always seemed like a confusing decision on Disney’s part. Yes, the Halloween reboot was able to perform very well on the same weekend last year, but that film was also seasonal, and was an R-rated slasher movie, not a PG-rated fantasy targeting a family audience. Originally, the Maleficent sequel was set for release next summer–which would’ve made sense given its reported $180 million price tag–but the Mouse House abruptly bumped it up eight months earlier this year, resulting in a lot of justifiable head-scratching from the press.
Think of Disney as the New York Yankees of movie studios (ignoring the fact that they were just eliminated from the division series). They don’t hit to get on base, they swing to get home runs. As things currently stand for 2019, Disney has four $100 million opening+ opening weekends this year alone (Avengers, Lion King, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4), with Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker almost certainly joining that club before we enter 2020. Why then open Maleficent on a mid-October weekend when it probably wouldn’t have done as well as it might’ve had it came out during the summer? The answer might be Disney’s streaming service, which launches next month. Sure, money might be left on the table now, but if the movie serves its purpose as yet another means to market Disney+ down the road, then Mistress of Evil might be thought of as a sacrificial bunt.
Still, it’s also worth noting that Maleficent has a confusing marketing campaign, with trailers not very well explaining what the sequel was about. Even worse was the “Mistress of Evil” subtitle, which also could’ve been perplexing to audiences, since the entire point of the last movie was about establishing that its title character was actually good. The positive news here is that the film got an “A” CinemaScore, and has made $150 million to date worldwide (the original Maleficent made $700 million globally, which is probably the main reason a follow-up was greenlit in the first place).
Elsewhere at the box office, The Addams Family had a pretty good hold, and now has a total of $57 million. Official production information on the movie isn’t available, but it probably wasn’t overly expensive, as UA and MGM kept the animation on this one budgeted. Time will tell is the almost immediate announcement of a sequel was a wise call or not, but for now, The Addams Family should have at least one good weekend in it before Halloween arrives.
Finally, Abominable continued to do “decent” business, even as it has a domestic total of $53 million after four weeks of release. As was said previously on this site, what’s going to save this one is the budget, which was kept moderate at $75 million. Still, DreamWorks and Universal have to be a little disappointed here, especially as the film has yet to make anything resembling a footprint in China, where it’s made only $14 million.