Disney's dark, villain-centric flick Maleficent — a re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty tale — raked in $70 million from North American box offices this weekend — and another $100.6 million overseas. This was, as The Hollywood Reporter puts it, "thanks in large part to girls and women."
Call it the Frozen fan base, if you like: the ladies Disney drew in are also responsible for making Frozen the fifth-biggest film in box office history.
THR's Pamela McClintock writes:
Observers believe Maleficent benefited greatly from targeting girls and moms, the same core audience that turned Disney's Frozen into a global Goliath. Females made up 60 percent of the audience, while 30 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 18.
Maleficent, co-starring Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora and rated PG, also did sizable family business (45 percent) after earning an A CinemaScore (reviews were decidedly mixed). It likewise proved a big draw for couples (40 percent).
McClintock also notes that this marks the best opening weekend of Angelina Jolie's entire career.
While Nolan Feeney at Time points out that critics hated Maleficent, Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution, tells Entertainment Weekly that the opening weekend success is "a nod to the draw of Angelina Jolie. She has had such extraordinary passion for this role."
But the movie's success also has to do with Maleficent herself: A strong female character. Like Frozen, Maleficent centers itself around a woman with power. Linda Woolverton, who wrote the screenplay for Maleficent — as well as the scripts for Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King — tells The Daily Beast that things have changed at Disney.
So this month is also the 20th anniversary of The Lion King being released. How different is writing a Disney movie, writing for a family audience, different now than it was 20 years ago?
There's more women in the room. I've seen that happen over the years, which is a wonderful thing. The sensibility about female characters is different than it was. I don't have to fight as hard—in fact, I don't have to fight at all—to make them strong and interesting. It's a different group of people I'm working with. Disney has changed along with the world. They're not stuck in the past, I believe. I just feel like I've been part of the process.
Although Disney does have some non-female-centric projects in the pipeline — another Planes flick, and an adaptation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — there will be more Disney ladies to come: the musical Into the Woods will hit theaters at Christmas, and Cinderella will be released in March 2015. Plus, Maleficent isn't the only Disney villain getting her own story: Disney's working on Cruella, based on the um, shall we say, fashion-forward baddie in 101 Dalmations. Meanwhile, people are waiting five hours to meet the princesses from Frozen, and Frozen On Ice is coming to a town near you. With all this success, you might forget that, in general, Hollywood still has a woman problem. (Hopefully things are getting better — money talks.)
Images via Disney.