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'Mistress of Evil' looks to hex 'Joker' in box office debut

The Walt Disney Co. will put up its own box office villain to battle Warner Bros.' "Joker" in its third weekend, pitting A-listers Angelina Jolie and Joaquin Phoenix against each other on the big screen.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Source: Disney

"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" marks Jolie's second foray as Sleeping Beauty antagonist Maleficent. While the sequel is not expected to open as high as its predecessor, Disney's live-action remakes and spinoffs of classic fairy tale films have mostly reaped box office profits, and "Mistress of Evil" should be no exception. BoxOffice.com projects "Mistress of Evil" will collect $40 million over its Oct. 18 domestic debut weekend; Variety and Deadline Hollywood put out estimates of $45 million and $50 million, respectively.

An opening in the $40-million to $50-million range would well fall short of the $69.4 million summoned by the original "Maleficent" in 2014. The earlier film, which cost about $182.1 to produce, went on to conjure $389.5 million in net profits, or a 41.9% profit margin, according to Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. Other recent profitable fairy tale retellings from Disney include 2015's "Cinderella", which opened at a similar level as "Maleficent" but cost less to produce, and 2017's "Beauty and the Beast", which opened much higher. This year's "Dumbo" proved less successful, turning out net profit of $4.0 million after opening to $46.0 million in March.

Critics do not think "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" is the fairest of them all, landing the title a cursed 42% "rotten" rating on critical review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes as of 10 a.m. ET, Oct. 18. The 2014 "Maleficent" film scored a 53% critical approval rating.

Disney will not be the only studio trying to create a little sequel magic: Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures will also get in on the competition with "Zombieland 2: Double Tap." BoxOffice.com thinks the comedy-horror film will scare up around $25.5 million for its opening weekend, while Deadline predicts it will collect $30 million.

The original "Zombieland" opened to $24.7 million in 2009 and went on to cult fame, ending with $162.3 million in total revenue and $33.9 million in net profits, according to Kagan. "Double Tap" cost $42 million to produce compared to $24.4 million for "Zombieland", so the sequel will need to wow audiences over the long term to end as profitably as its predecessor, even with a similar opening.

Critics gave "Double Tap" a "fresh" 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 10 a.m ET, Oct. 18.

The "Joker" is expected to land somewhere between "Double Tap" and "Mistress of Evil", with forecasts for its third weekend putting the Batman villain at around $25 million to $32 million.

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