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Maleficent sequel dominates North American box office with US$36m haul

Despite opening below projections heading into the weekend, the Disney movie easily towers over competition including Warner Bros' Joker and Sony's Zombieland: Double Tap

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Above: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, starring Angelina Jolie as a villainous enchantress, will rely on the international box office to recoup its US$185 million budget.

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Above, from left: Zoey Deutch, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in Zombieland: Double Tap.

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Roman Griffin Davis (at left) and Taika Waititi in Jojo Rabbit.

Los Angeles

FIVE years after Angelina Jolie's Maleficent cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts.

Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, a sequel to 2014's fantasy adventure based on the Sleeping Beauty sorceress, debuted to US$36 million from 2,790 North American theatres, nearly half of what the first movie made in its inaugural weekend (US$69 million).

Despite opening below projections heading into the weekend, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil easily towered over competition including holdover from Warner Bros' Joker and newcomer Sony's Zombieland: Double Tap.

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The Maleficent follow-up did benefit as one of the few offerings catering to younger female moviegoers in a marketplace that's been largely dominated by male-skewed titles like Joker and Paramount's Gemini Man.

Women represented 56 per cent of ticket buyers, about 50 per cent of whom were under the age of 25.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil marks the lowest opening weekend of the year for Disney and will now rely on the international box office to recoup its US$185 million budget.

The film had much more promising showing overseas, lifting off with US$117 million for a global start of US$150 million. The original pulled in an impressive US$517 million from foreign markets and another US$241 million from the domestic market.

Elle Fanning also returned for the sequel, joining newcomers to the series Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Skrein and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Fellow new release Zombieland: Double Tap launched at No 3 with a better-than-expected US$26.7 million and should continue to build momentum in coming weeks as Halloween nears.

The original Zombieland premiered to US$24 million in 2009 and ended its box office run with a solid US$102 million globally.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the zombie comedy reunites stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray. Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch joined the cast.

Zombieland 2 cost US$42 million to make, roughly double what the studio spent on the original (US$23 million).

After its two-week reign atop domestic box office charts, Joker slid to second place and added US$29 million in its third weekend of release.

That puts the dark supervillain origin story - starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips - close to the US$250 million mark in North America, with ticket sales hitting US$247 million. Overseas, Joker has scared up a mighty US$490 million for a worldwide bounty of US$737.5 million.

In other milestones, STX and Lorene Scafaria's Hustlers crossed the coveted US$100 million mark at the domestic box office.

After six weeks in theatres, Hustlers pulled in another US$2 million, boosting its haul to US$101.8 million in North America and US$128.8 million globally.

Meanwhile, Focus Features' Downton Abbey has surpassed US$88 million in the US and now stands as the studio's highest-grossing movie ever at the domestic box office, a record previously held by Brokeback Mountain with US$83 million.

Among awards season hopefuls, Fox Searchlight's Jojo Rabbit bowed with a strong US$350,000 from five theatres in New York and Los Angeles, averaging US$70,000 from each location.

Written and directed by Taika Waititi (who also stars in the film as an absurdist imaginary Adolf Hitler), Jojo Rabbit is set during World War II and follows a young boy eager to join the Hitler Youth, who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.

Critics have been mostly impressed with Jojo Rabbit (it holds a 77 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), while audiences have awarded it with an "A" CinemaScore.

Jojo Rabbit, based on the novel Caging Skies, will continue its paced rollout next weekend in eight new markets including Washington and San Francisco.

The studio is aiming for a nationwide release by Nov 8. The cast includes Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson and Sam Rockwell.

Elsewhere, Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse took in US$419,764 from eight venues. The darkly comedic drama, led by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, will continue to expand nationwide next weekend, where it will play on 500 screens. REUTERS