SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Disney‘s 3D wizardry Oz The Great And Powerful was magic for the U.S. and Canadian box office just like advance tracking showed it would be. Little wonder that the studio has gone into development of a first sequel and expects this new franchise to spin off not just films but mucho merchandising and park attractions for years to come. All after naysayers said no one could mess with a classic like The Wizard Of Oz. The $215M-costing Sam Raimi-directed fantasy was by far the biggest domestic film debut of what has been a disappointing 2013 start for Hollywood pics and opened to the third biggest March. It scored an $80.3M domestic debut – it isn’t even a holiday weekend. Overseas it made a good but not great $69.9M but that’s still a giant $150.2M worldwide. Reviews were lukewarm but a “B+” CinemaScore from audiences helped word of mouth so domestic grosses increased +25% from Friday to Saturday’s $33M for the all-important family fare bump. And that’s even with Friday’s $24.1M including $2 million from select theaters in Thursday pre-midnights and Friday post-midnights. (Friday’s early matinees also were ahead of Universal’s megahit toon Lorax.) Sunday’s gross is an estimated $23.1M. Disney played live-action Oz in traditional 2D, as well as Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats. Of all filmgoers, 3D formats drew 54% and 2D 46%. In North America, audience exit polling showed that moviegoers over 25 years old made up 55% while under 25 were 45%. Couples comprised 48%, families 35%, and teens 17%. Females outnumbered males 52% to 48%. The studio ensured its TV ads for PG-rated Oz were omnipresent as part of a $100M marketing spend and mirrored the colorful chaos of those for its 2010 Alice In Wonderland mega-hit. Oz even released the same weekend as Alice. But that Tim Burton pic offered not only worldwide star Johnny Depp but also one of the first truly rich 3D experiences and scored a $116 million domestic debut and went on to earn a superb $1 billion worldwide, making 2/3s of its money overseas. This Oz wizardry was less appealing with James Franco who struggles to open box office solo. Whether this pic earns back its hefty cost depends largely on overseas grosses - and I’ve been warning that the Land Of Oz is not the globally familiar place in literature Wonderland was and is.
Oz released day and date in 80% of the international marketplace. It began with Russia, Germany, Australia, Korea and Italy on Thursday, and then Friday expanded into a total 46 territories, including UK, Spain, Mexico, Japan, Brazil. Talent and filmmakers did a global press tour across 8 major markets which helped Russia become the lead market with $15M followed by the UK ($5.7M), Mexico ($5.1M), Australia ($5.0M), and Germany ($4.2M).
For IMAX, the domestic performance of Disney’s Oz delivered a robust $8.2M on 307 screens, second best for its March 3D titles. IMAX’s international box office on 135 screens hit $4Ml for the weekend, setting a new record for a March opening. The Fri-Sun result in Russia was a territory 3-day record of $1.4M (per screen of $50K). IMAX’s global weekend gross for Oz is an estimated $12.2M from 442 digital only screens, which is a second-best for a March opening (bested only by Alice In Wonderland‘s extraordinary performance in 2010)..
Meanwhile, FilmDistrict’s R-rated action thriller Dead Man Down also opened but to an anemic first weekend of $5.3M from 2,188 theaters. FilmDistrict acquired the U.S. rights from IM Global, Original Film, and Frequency Films for no minimum guarantee and had a P&A backstop. Marketed to an adult audience with a focus on urban and ethnic moviegoers, the film grossed on the low end of expectations. That despite the trailer debuting on Django Unchained and promos highlighting director Niels Arden Oplev who helmed the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo also starring Noomi Rapace. This is yet another loser for Colin Farrell who continues to demonstrate he can’t open a movie. Pic was scripted by J.H. Wyman and earned a ‘B-’ CinemaScore from audiences who were 60% male and 40% female and 75% aged 25 and older.
So Oz faced no competition at this weekend’s cineplex, especially after Warner Bros’ Jack The Giant Slayer (another $200M budgetbuster) bombed last weekend and fell apart this one. And DreamWorks Animation’s family toon The Croods doesn’t open until March 22nd. Expectedly, the Disney marketing machine was in high gear for its witches/wizards and put together a really spectacular campaign that worked. Tracking services stayed steady in the weeks leading up to release with the pic expected to earn from the $70sM to $80sM even with box office down significantly since Christmas/New Year. A high-profile Super Bowl spot with Disney online homepage takeover, followed by digital takeovers on Moviefone, Fandango, IMDb, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) and presence in major broadcast events like the Academy Awards, Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, and Rose Parade did the trick. Trailers accompanied 2012 blockbusters while the world premiere was held February 13th at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood followed by international premieres in Tokyo, Moscow, London, and Paris. Talent and filmmakers were out in force in support of the film, with appearances across daytime and late-night, print media (10+ cover stories), an E! movie special that aired March 7, and exclusive screenings and special events including Comic-Con (featuring buzzed-about Hall H panel and footage debut), CinemaCon and Daytona 500 (with James Franco serving as Grand Marshal). And end-credit song “Almost Home” by Mariah Carey released February 19th via Island Def Jam while the music video directed by longtime Carey collaborator David LaChapelle debuted on American Idol. in terms of innovation, Google Chrome Experiment “Find Your Way to Oz” designed by Disney and Google created an immersive experience and included an unprecedented Google homepage takeover on February 7th. The “Journey to Oz” Balloon Tour, sponsored by HSN and IMAX, launched February 12 while Disney theme park integrations included an exclusive 8-minute 4D sneak peek of the film throughout March and a large-scale Oz garden with entry portal, carnival area, and Yellow Brick Road through May 19.
The pre-release pressure on Disney was enormous. First came months of bad buzz. Then Wall Street was understandably nervous about another movie costing $200 million. Some business media even wrote headlines like “Oz The Great And Powerful Could Be Disney’s Next John Carter Flop”. (Granted, tracking is less and less an accurate indicator of actual theatrical performance. But John Carter, which also cost $200M, only opened to $30.1M and made just $73M domestically all-in.) This weekend success for Oz cements director Raimi as the real deal when it comes to helming blockbusters. (After steering the original Spider-Man trilogy from 2002 through 2007, he has made mostly small and modest movies until this budget buster starring Spidey frenemy Franco.) Also the Alice In Wonderland comparisons were daunting. Not only was Oz produced by Alice In Wonderland‘s Joe Roth, but it also used the same visual effects pro and production designer Robert Stromberg. Development spanned no less than 3 Disney studio chiefs – Dick Cook, Rich Ross, and most recently Alan Horn. The latter is claiming credit for the success of Zach Braff as the funny Flying Monkey. (Horn added to the pic’s cost by approving reshoots so that Franco’s sidekick talked all the way through the pic instead of just at the end.) The script, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, is inspired by L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and also the prequel to the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz. The story takes place 25 years before Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow or the Tin Man were there. Instead this tale tells how the Wizard got to the Land Of Oz. Since the 1950s, Baum’s 13 Oz sequels have been in the public domain.