A week after a near $200-million movie debuted with a flop, another big-budget 3-D film proved to be box office magic.
"Oz: The Great and Powerful" enjoyed a far better opening than "Jack the Giant Slayer" did last weekend, launching with a robust $80.3 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios. The film, which a person close to the movie said cost the studio roughly $235 million to produce, had the biggest launch of the year not only domestically but also internationally. Overseas, "Oz" raked in a respectable $69.9 million from 46 foreign markets.
The film's healthy debut provided a much-needed box office boost in the U.S. and Canada, where ticket sales have lagged for the last six weeks. "Jack the Giant Slayer," another costly Hollywood spin on a classic tale, proved to be a disappointment when it started off last weekend with just $27.2 million. With the arrival of "Oz," it seems Warner Bros.' "Jack" doesn't stand much of a chance at becoming a domestic hit: This weekend, the Bryan Singer picture saw its sales tumble a dramatic 63% to $10 million.
"Oz," directed by Sam Raimi, had a successful opening weekend because it appealed to moviegoers of both genders and all ages. About 52% of the audience was female, and 54% of the crowd was over age 25. Couples comprised roughly 43% of the group, while families accounted for 41%. Those who saw the movie this weekend seemed to like it, assigning it an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
The concept wasn't a hit with everyone from the start, though. Even though the film is not a remake of 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" -- the picture focuses on the backstory of James Franco's Wizard character -- many people had said it was a risky proposition to tinker with Frank L. Baum's classic characters.
Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president of distribution, said he believed the studio's cachet with moviegoers helped to make the picture a hit this weekend.
"If you think about our branded strategy, you're starting with Disney, and that gives us a bit of an incoming relationship with the consumer," Hollis said. "We were able to find something -- against heightened expectations -- with a great story, filmmakers and actors who are all hot, contemporary and at the top of their craft. It was definitely something we had to be careful with and respectful of, and then over-deliver."
Overseas, the movie did best in Russia, where it grossed $15 million. Some of the film's stars, including Franco, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis, recently traveled to that nation for a glitzy red carpet premiere there. The picture has yet to debut in a few major foreign markets, including China and France, where it will roll out later this month.
The film will have to do phenomenally abroad if it is to follow in the footsteps of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland." That costly 3-D family oriented film opened to a slightly better $116.1 million on the same weekend in March 2010 and went on to gross over $1 billion worldwide. The film owes its success largely to foreign moviegoers, as it did 67% of its business abroad.
"Dead Man Down," the only other film to hit theaters nationwide this weekend, was swiftly killed by audiences at the box office. The crime thriller, featuring Colin Farrell as a hit man who teams up with his mysterious neighbor (Noomi Rapace), opened with just $5.4 million. Distributor FilmDistrict doesn't appear to have much at stake financially, though, as it acquired the picture's U.S. release rights from producers IM Global, Original Film and Frequency Films.
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