While the next few weeks will determine if “Oz the Great and Powerful” meets or succeeds expectations, it’s off to a good start. Disney insiders were long forecasting an $80 million plus take for its first three days, and they pretty much hit that figure dead on (but didn’t exceed it wildly as some were predicting). This prequel/spinoff to the original “The Wizard of Oz” reportedly cost in the neighborhood of $200 million, with at least an additional $100 million in prints and advertising, so Disney’s likely hoping the film can maintain some legs and possibly perform similarly overseas to “Alice In Wonderland,” which captured two-thirds of its billion dollar gross abroad. Speaking of which, the film totaled $150 million counting foreign box office, and it’s the third largest March opening ever. So again, not a bad start at all.
Using a male lead for a cinematic story that is usually identified by heroine Dorothy certainly seems like one of Disney’s post-princess attempts to woo the young male demographic, not to mention the picture’s intended association with “Spider-Man” brought upon by director Sam Raimi and star James Franco (worth noting: this is a lower debut than any of Raimi‘s non-3D “Spider-Man” movies). However, it seems Disney, who have been developing ‘Oz’ for a few years, found that fanbase with the purchase of recent Marvel and Lucasfilm. As such, ads mostly focused on the CGI fantasia and adventure elements instead of attempting to turn the mercurial Franco into a conventional star attraction. Not like he cares, of course: a performer like Franco isn’t interested in marquee space as much as he is in ubiquity, and his career received more of a boost from the visibility of simply being cast in the film.
Disney has already announced a follow-up, though given the astronomical cost and the fact that Raimi has already announced he won’t return suggests they might hesitate before pulling that trigger. However, ‘Alice’ remains without a sequel, even if the studio recently took tentative steps towards a follow-up; they’re essentially building a live-action anthology fantasy franchise anyway with the upcoming “Maleficent” and “Cinderella.” And while there remain scads of ‘Oz’ sequel books to mine for a sequel, a return to Dorothy (or any elements from the 1939 MGM film) remain off the table for legal reasons (and licensing the rights would cost a small fortune).
While families flocked to ‘Oz,’ “Jack The Giant Slayer” took a serious punch to the groin, losing over 60 percent of its audience. The PG-13 kid flick never gained marketing traction, and word of mouth apparently wasn’t there for the re-imagined fairy tale. Nobody’s exactly shedding a tear for this film since the writing was on the wall probably halfway through shooting. Sometimes you make an expensive mistake, and you don’t realize it until its too late. Read that on a bumper sticker once. Regardless, WB stands to lose a lot of money from this $200 million plus expenditure, while director Bryan Singer long ago grabbed the golden parachute that was “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Smart man.
In week five, “Identity Thief” is still kicking around, boasting only minor audience drops each week. Count this as an unquestionable victory for all involved: this is Jason Bateman’s first studio producing effort and it couldn’t have gone better, while director Seth Gordon now calls the shots on his career as he and Bateman line up “Horrible Bosses 2.” As for Melissa McCarthy, who will soon be seen in “The Heat” and “The Hangover Part III,” she couldn’t be hotter, but it looks like the heavily-watched “Mike And Molly” will continue to be her security blanket for the time being, as she is currently achieving that rare balance of being both a movie and TV star.
“Dead Man Down” looked like a scuzzy low-rent action film from the ads, and the indistinct story and lack of genuine star power likely sank the film. This isn’t even close to being a pricey film, but wide release films bank on stronger openings like this. The most mystifying leading man in Hollywood continues to be the talented and handsome Colin Farrell, who nonetheless finds himself constantly trapped in low-rent genre junk as Hollywood continues to bank on him, wondering exactly how to best utilize the Golden Globe winner. For the record, this does continue this year’s trend of the audience rejecting violent R-rated action fare, although to argue any of them were potential smash hits is intellectually dishonest preening from someone trying to draw up an anti-gun narrative: the gunplay-heavy “Fast And Furious 6” is set to destroy every single one of those theses.
Speaking of which, “Snitch”! Dwayne Johnson’s actioner has admirably stuck in the top five for three straight weeks, passing $30 million and looking like a solid programmer on its modest $14 million budget. It leapt over “21 And Over,” which, point-blank, did not reach its key audience. Relativity kept the budget far down, but the marketing push was strong enough to suggest a domestic profit may have to wait for ancillary markets.
“Safe Haven” is winding down, and while none of these Nicholas Sparks adaptations cross nine figures, they all tend to perform around $60-$70 million and never cost all that much. Until Sparks starts writing books where people wear capes and fly, his adaptations have allowed him to form his own cottage industry in print and in film. “Silver Linings Playbook” suffered its first major drop in weeks, meanwhile, and it looks like after seventeen weeks (!) the Weinsteins are going to slowly start pulling screens for the Oscar favorite. “Escape From Planet Earth” is also on its way out, likely a victim of Weinstein negligence after the company’s marketing efforts and Oscar pushes for ‘Playbook’ and “Django Unchained” (set to cross $400 million worldwide) while “The Last Exorcism Part II” collapsed like all horror films do in its second weekend and will be lucky to finish with half the first film’s $41 million domestic total.
In limited release, “Emperor” opened on 260 screens, collecting a little over $1 million, a middling debut for the historical drama. “Someone Up There Likes Me” only opened on one screen, though it collected a strong $38.5k, while “Beyond The Hills” grossed $18k at three locations. “The We And The I” was quietly received, however, with $12k on only one screen. In its sixth week, “The Gatekeepers” grossed $250k at sixty seven locations, bringing its total over $1 million, while “No” expanded from 11 to 35 theaters, grossing $167k to boost its total over $500k. And in its second weekend, “Stoker” pulled in $115k on seventeen screens for a two-week total of $330k.
1. Oz: The Ladies Man Of Oz 3D (Disney) – $80.2 million
2. Jack The Giant Tax Write-Off 3D (Warner Bros.) – $10 million ($43.8 mil.)
3. Identity Thief (Universal) – $6.3 million ($116.5 mil.)
4. Still Trying To Make Colin Farrell Happen (FilmDistrict) – $5.3 million
5. Snitch (Lionsgate/Summit) – $5.1 million ($31.8 mil.)
6. 21 And Over – (Relativity) – $5 million ($16.8 mil.)
7. Safe Haven (Relativity) – $3.8 million ($62.8 mil.)
8. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $3.7 million ($120.7 mil.)
9. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $3.2 million ($47.8 mil.)
10. The Last Exorcism Part II: The Quickening (CBS) – $3.1 million ($12 mil.)