Weekend Box Office: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL Claims Third Highest March Debut of All Time

     March 10, 2013

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The fact that we all saw it coming doesn’t make it less sweet. Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful opened big this weekend, earning an estimated $80.2 million from 3,912 locations. Not only does that more than double 2013’s highest debut, it also stands as the third-best March opening of all time, behind Alice in Wonderland and The Hunger Games.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Oz the Great and Powerful $80,200,000 $80.2
2.  Jack the Giant Slayer $10,020,000 $43.8
3.  Identity Thief $6,300,000 $116.5
4.  Dead Man Down $5,350,000 $5.35
5.  Snitch $5,100,000 $31.8
6.  21 & Over $5,056,000 $16.8
7.  Safe Haven $3,800,000 $62.8
8.  Silver Linings Playbook $3,745,000 $120.7
9.  Escape from Planet Earth $3,270,000 $47.8
10.  The Last Exorcism Part II $3,120,000 $12

oz-the-great-and-powerful-posterIt’s a feeling that has become foreign to the box office during this long, mediocre winter: excitement. The source of this enthusiasm is Oz the Great and Powerful, a film that was all but guaranteed a big opening. So, why all the hyperbole for a release that was expected to do well? Any movie that can bring color back to this dark and dismal year is a movie to be celebrated.

At this point, you probably don’t need me to tell you why the $80.2 million opening of Oz the Great and Powerful is such a revelation. If you pay any attention to weekend results you know that 2013 has lurched from one disappointing frame to another. The box office has had flops with both big budgets (Beautiful Creatures, Jack the Giant Slayer) and big stars (The Last Stand, Movie 43). It has also produced just one $100 million dollar property (compared to three at the same point in 2012) and one debut north of $30 million (compared to last year’s four).

So, it’s clear that the opening of Oz the Great and Powerful towers over its 2013 competition. In fact, it towers over the last five wide openings combined. In terms of past years, Oz the Great and Powerful is now the third-highest March opening in box office history, besting the $70.8 million of 2007’s 300. The Disney release also topped The Lorax, which opened on the first weekend of March 2012 with $70.2 million and was still on top one week later with $38.8 million. That means that, after six losing frames, 2013 can finally claim a year-over-year victory.

dead-man-down-posterOz the Great and Powerful also seems poised for long-term financial success. Assuming it holds well over the next two weeks, the Sam Raimi-directed feature could reach $200 million in domestic receipts. Oz should do even better internationally, where audiences have not yet tired of 3D releases. Although Disney spent more than $200 million to return to Oz, unlike last weekend’s Jack the Giant Slayer, that investment will be more than justified by worldwide receipts and Disney’s monster merchandising machine.

As hesitant as I am to throw cold water on this box office love-fest, I must point out that Oz the Great and Powerful was not the only new film released this weekend. FilmDistrict offered audiences a second option in the form of their R-rated thriller Dead Man Down. In any other year, this counter-programming move may have paid dividends but, after weeks of mediocre, R-rated releases like Bullet to the Head and Broken City, sending another dark thriller into theatres felt like overkill. Little wonder that Dead Man Down stalled at $5.3 million instead of reaching its very modest projected goal of $8 million from 2,188 locations.

If 2013 has taught me anything, it is to dial my expectations way down. Still, the success of Oz the Great and Powerful has given me hope that the box office might be able to pull off a second winning weekend in a row. As the only fresh family-friendly film in theatres, Oz is all but guaranteed a good sophomore hold. So, provided The Incredible Burt Wonderstone doesn’t flame out, I think that 2013 could expand its winning streak to two. Fingers crossed.

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