Early Friday matinee returns show Sam Raimi's 3D fantasy-adventure Oz the Great and Powerful headed for a domestic opening in the mid-$70 million range, somewhat lower than expected.
Many box observers believed that the family friendly film would cross $80 million in its debut, although Disney always projected $75 million, which would mark the third best March opening of all time after last year's The Hunger Games ($152.5 million) and fellow Disney fantasy-adventure Alice in Wonderland, which debuted to $116.1 million in 2010.
Oz is expected to gross anywhere between $22 million to $25 million on Friday, including $2 million in midnight earnings. So far, it's easily ahead of last year's family hit Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which debuted just north of $70 million a year ago.
Universal's Bridesmaids currently holds the record for the top opening of the year ($34.5 million).
Ultimately, the size of Oz's opening will depend upon how many families turn out on Saturday.
Raimi's tentpole tells the story of how a fast-talking Kansas circus worker (James Franco) became the Wizard of Oz. The three witches central to the story are played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams.
Disney spent north of $300 million on Oz, between the $215 million production budget and marketing spend. i