Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” a prequel to the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz,” delivered the best opening weekend of 2013 at U.S. and Canadian theaters, taking in $79.1 million.
Sales were almost triple that of last week’s No. 1 picture, “Jack the Giant Slayer.” It dropped to second place this past weekend with $9.8 million for Time Warner Inc (TWX).’s New Line Cinema, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement.
Inspired by the L. Frank Baum novels, “Oz the Great and Powerful” posted the third-highest March opening, behind “The Hunger Games” ($152.5 million) and “Alice in Wonderland” ($116.1 million). It also topped this year’s previous best debut, $34.6 million in sales by Universal Pictures’ “Identity Thief,” Hollywood.com said.
“‘Oz’ is perhaps one of the most identifiable brand names in the universe and has a built-in” fan base, Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com’s box-office unit, said in an e-mail. “Jack” is aimed at teens and 20-something males, who “have seemingly checked out of going to the movies thus far this year,” he said.
“Jack,” a $200 million film, had opening weekend sales of $27.2 million.
“Oz” stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, a circus con artist who gets caught in a tornado and carried to the magical land of Munchkins. He finds redemption while matching wits with a wicked witch. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams also are featured in the film.
The new “Oz,” directed by Sam Raimi and made for about $225 million, was expected to generate sales of $75 million, the estimate of Boxoffice.com.
The character of Diggs fills the title role in “The Wizard of Oz,” the classic film starring Judy Garland. Studios have tried unsuccessfully to capitalize on the magic of that film before. In 1985, Disney released “Return to Oz” with domestic box office sales of $11.1 million, according to IMDB.com. That was less than half the $25 million production budget. Universal Pictures produced “The Wiz” with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in 1978. The $24 million movie took in $13 million from U.S. theaters.
“Jack the Giant Slayer” is 3-D re-imagination of the children’s fairy tale that goes beyond the simple story of Jack’s one-time trip up the beanstalk. In the film, directed by Bryan Singer, Jack rekindles an ancient war between humans and a race of bloodthirsty giants. Nicholas Hoult, who played the character Beast in “X-Men: First Class,” portrays Jack.
The film has taken in $43.6 million since it was released on March 1. Ticket sales per theater dropped 64 percent from last week, the data show.
“It was a disappointing opening weekend and it’s continued here in the second week,” said Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Bloomberg Industries. “They had huge competition from ‘Oz.’”
Still, the movie may do well overseas, Sweeney said in a telephone interview. Hollywood studios are reworking classic tales that they can sell to international audiences, he said.
“Studio chiefs are recognizing that in order for a movie to be successful overseas, it has to be a character or a series or a story that’s well known globally or can travel globally,” Sweeney said.
“Identity Thief” had sales of $6.3 million for third place. The movie stars Jason Bateman as Sandy Bigelow Patterson, a man whose gender-neutral name enables a woman to assume his identity and wreck his credit. The film from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures co-stars Melissa McCarthy as Bateman’s nemesis. Amanda Peet plays Sandy’s wife.
The weekend’s only other new film, FilmDistrict’s “Dead Man Down,” took in $5.3 million for fourth place. The mob thriller stars Colin Farrell as a low-level thug out for revenge against a crime boss played by Terrence Howard. Noomi Rapace plays a young woman who has her own reasons for wanting to bring down Howard’s character. The film was expected to have sales of $5 million, according to Boxoffice.com.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 8.7 percent to $128.3 million from the year-earlier weekend, Hollywood.com said. Sales this year are down 12 percent to $1.72 billion. Attendance is down 13 percent.
The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for March 8 to March 10.
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