At the box office, no one's sleeping on 'Maleficent'

Posted: June 03, 2014

THE BIGGEST box-office debut of Angelina Jolie's career propelled Disney's dark fairy tale "Maleficent" to a $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.

Seth MacFarlane's new comedy "A Million Ways to Die in the West" was outgunned by "Maleficent." The R-rated Universal release opened in third place with a tepid $17.1 million despite a cast of Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried. MacFarlane's "Ted" opened with $54.4 million in 2012.

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

But "Maleficent" dominated the marketplace, which has seen female-leading films continually challenge the much-disputed but still prevalent notion that male stars fuel the box office.

The film was a balancing act for Disney, which is used to churning out brighter tales.

"If you go to Disney, the longest lines are for the scariest rides," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "We're going to see more of this, where the villains are the new heroes."

Prince Albert's heir

Prince Albert II, 56, and Princess Charlene, 36, of Monaco have announced that they are expecting their first child, who will be heir to the tiny principality.

The couple issued a statement expressing their "immense joy" and said that the birth is expected before the end of the year.

The news is sure to please the palace and end recent tabloid speculation that's dogged Charlene - why, after nearly three years of marriage to Albert, she had not yet provided an heir. Britain's Kate Middleton became pregnant with Prince George about a year and a half after she married Prince William.

Until the baby is born, the throne of Monaco, a tiny fiefdom smaller than New York's Central Park, would pass to Princess Caroline, Albert's older sister. The constitution had been changed to allow Caroline a claim during Prince Albert's tenure because subjects were nervous he wouldn't produce an heir - after years of high-profile rendezvous with women like Brooke Shields, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell.

Albert has already acknowledged two children, born out of wedlock, and thus excluded from the succession: his daughter, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, and his son, Alexandre Coste.

TATTBITS

Melissa Etheridge married Linda Wallem at the San Ysidro Ranch, in Montecito, Calif., on Saturday.

People magazine informed the public.

Etheridge and Wallem, a co-creator of the television series "Nurse Jackie," began dating in 2010. They announced their engagement following the Supreme Court's decision on gay rights.

Besides the singer's four children, the magazine says that several celebrities attended the ceremony, including Chelsea Handler, Rosie O'Donnell, Whitney Cummings, Peter Facinelli and recording artist Sia.

Ray J, the brother of Brandy Norwood and former porn co-star of Kim Kardashian, was arrested at a Beverly Hills hotel Friday night after police say he became belligerent with staff, kicked out a patrol-car window and spat at an officer.

Police had arrived at the hotel to investigate a report that Ray J had inappropriately touched a woman at the bar.

A representative for Ray J declined to comment.

* A new mural featuring "The Simpsons" is heading to Springfield, Ore.

The mural, expected to be completed in mid-September, follows several years of talks between the city and "Simpsons" producers on commemorating the link between the real and fictitious Springfields, city spokesman Niel Laudati told the Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore.

The city will soon search for an artist to paint the mural on the side of the Emerald Art Center. In a statement to the newspaper, series creator Matt Groening said that he plans to put his stamp of approval when it's finished.

"I plan to sneak up in the middle of the night and sign the mural," he said. "I hope I don't get arrested."

The mural is expected to cost $10,000. The city will use tax revenue from hotel rooms to pay for it.

* "The Arsenio Hall Show" has been canceled because of low ratings, ending Hall's late-night comeback bid after a single season.

CBS Television Production had previously announced that Hall's syndicated show would be back for a second season, but faced the prospect of stations moving it to lesser time slots.

* A new arena version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" starring punk legend John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon and Michelle Williams, of Destiny's Child, has abruptly canceled its 54-city tour just days before its launch.

Producers quietly pulled the plug on the project Friday without explanation. Fran Curtis, a publicist for the show from press representative Rogers & Cowan, did not return messages seeking a reason for the cancellation.

The tour was to start June 9 in New Orleans and include stops in Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, New York City, Boston and Philadelphia.

If you've ordered tickets, the temple's money-changers should refund it.

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.


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