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‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ has strong debut

LOS ANGELES – 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, launching with a robust $80.3 million in the United States and Canada over the weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios.

The newer film, which a person close to the movie said cost 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 markets.

The movie’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 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 past weekend, the Bryan Singer picture saw its sales tumble a dramatic 63 percent 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 percent of the audience was female, and 54 percent of the crowd was older than 25. Couples made up roughly 43 percent of the group, while families accounted for 41 percent. Those who saw the movie seemed to like it, assigning it an average grade of B-plus, 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 back story 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 over the 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 overdeliver.”

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. The picture has yet to debut in a few major foreign markets, including China and France, where it will roll out 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 more than $1 billion worldwide. The film owes its success largely to foreign moviegoers, as it did 67 percent of its business abroad.

“Dead Man Down,” the only other film to hit theaters nationwide this past weekend, was swiftly killed at the box office.

The crime thriller, featuring Colin Farrell as a hit man who teams with his mysterious neighbor (Noomi Rapace), opened with just $5.4 million.


©2013 Los Angeles Times

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