By Todd Cunningham
"Oz the Great and Powerful" surged on Saturday and rose to a lofty $80.3 million debut weekend at the North American box office.
It was a strong start for Disney's $200 million, 3D special-effects extravaganza, which also rolled out in 46 foreign markets to $69.9 million, giving it a $150.2 million opening weekend globally. After a $24 million domestic debut Friday, which included $2 million in Thursday midnight shows, "Oz" brought in a whopping, family-fueled $33 million on Saturday, a 37 percent increase from its first day.
For Disney, the big production budget -- and a marketing campaign that cost at least half as much -- made a big opening critical.
"With the Disney brand and an iconic, revered property like this, of course it's a big bet," Disney's head of distribution Dave Hollis told TheWrap. "But when you ally yourself with filmmakers like Sam Raimi and Robert Stromberg, you reduce some of the risks."
"Oz" is directed by Raimi and stars James Franco as the young wizard and Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz as witches. Stromberg is the production designer and had the same role on the film most often compared with "Oz," the similarly big-budget and effects-laden "Alice in Wonderland." That Disney film starred Johnny Depp and made more than $1 billion in 2010, with the vast majority -- $690 million -- coming from abroad.
Russia was the biggest foreign market for "Oz," with $15 million this weekend. It took in $1.4 million on Imax screens there, an eye-popping $50,000 per screen. Other strong territories were the U.K. ($5.7 million), Mexico ($5.1 million) and Australia ($5 million).
The U.S. opening by "Oz" is the biggest since December, when "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" debuted to $84 million, and the third biggest March debut ever. Only last year's "Hunger Games: and "Alice in Wonderland" have topped it with $152 million and $116 million, respectively.
Disney had "Oz" in 3,912 North American theaters. Around 3,055 of those screened it in 3D and 307 were Imax theaters, and the premium pricing at those locations helped. Theaters screening it in 3D provided 53 percent of the overall haul, and Imax theaters brought in 10 percent.
Couples accounted for 43 percent of the first-night audiences, families 41 percent and teens 16. The family number should rise after Saturday and Sunday are factored in. The crowds, 52 percent female, gave "Oz" a "B+" CinemaScore. They liked it better than most critics; it had a lukewarm 60 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Hollis said the broad demographic numbers were nice to see.
"You always hope you're going to hit that sort of broad audience," he told TheWrap on Sunday, "and the numbers say we did. It's the first big event film of the year, and we think we'll pick up some momentum, with the 'water cooler' factor and spring break coming up."
The big "Oz" numbers helped the slumping overall box office beat last year's comparable week, when "The Lorax" led the way with a $52 million second go-round. The box office was running about 15 percent behind last year coming into the weekend.
The massive debut for "Oz" is in marked contrast to that of Warner Bros.' "Jack the Giant Slayer," a similarly pricey and effects-laden extravaganza that mustered just $27 million in its first three days last week. Running a distant second this week, "Jack" dropped 63 percent from last week and took in $10 million from 3,525 theaters.
The weekend's other wide opener, "Dead Man Down," finished fourth with $5.3 million. Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace star in Film District's neo-noir revenge thriller. It drew a "B-" CinemaScore from first-night audiences, which broke down 60 percent male and 75 percent over 25 years of age.
Universal's "Identity Thief," the R-rated Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman comedy, took in $6.3 million to finish third in its fifth week. Its overall domestic gross is now $116.5 million.
The weekend's top 10:
"Oz the Great and Powerful," $80.3 million
"Jack the Giant Slayer," $10 million
"Identity Thief," $6.3 million
"Dead Man Down," $5.3 million
"Snitch," $5.1 million
"21 & Over," $5 million
"Safe Haven," $3.8 million
"Silver Linings Playbook," $3.7 million
"Escape From Planet Earth," $3.2 million
"The Last Exorcism, Part 2," $3.1 million
Wizard of Oz is my ALL TIME favorite movie.
I was excited to see a prequel movie ( based on the BOOKS ) to learn about another side of the story. This one told about the Wizard and how he came to be in OZ and the witches, why did they turn bad or become bad.
The movie was beautiful to watch. The cinematography is amazing. It has everything you could want: love story, revenge, funny, action, adventure, sweet & sappy, yet it all comes together. There are some very good one liners and there are similarities to the original, but that is all they are is similar. This is a completely different movie made in a different century!! I found it to be entertaining and enlightening.
Go see it and make up your own mind. Don't take the critics opinion, form your own. Go with an open mind, and don't compare movies.
Look,the movie companies know if movies are good or not, they are in the biz of making them.
A lot of the movies that 5uck are quite often the last of a stars' 2 or 3-movie deal with a certain studio.