Weekend Box Office (March 8 - 10, 2013)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Disney's big-budget Emerald City gamble paid off as the expensive 3D prequel Oz the Great and Powerful opened to sensational results at the North American box office accounting for well over half of all ticket sales thanks to one of the biggest debuts ever seen at this time of year. The PG-rated adventure bowed to a stunning $79.1M, according to final studio figures, from 3,912 theaters resulting in a spectacular $20,223 average.

It was the third biggest March opening ever trailing last year's The Hunger Games ($152.5M) and the 2010 Johnny Depp mega-smash Alice in Wonderland ($116.1M) and the fourth best during the entire January-to-March corridor. Directed by Sam Raimi, Oz stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz and tells the origin story behind the classic story The Wizard of Oz. The production budget is estimated to be at a staggering $215M but the excellent debut now indicates that this will end up as a moneymaker - quite possibly with over $600M in global box office plus ancillaries.

The Mouse House had its marketing machine working overtime for months to build excitement and the campaign worked. Families were genuinely excited but so were adult women, teens, and young adults so the broad appeal helped fuel a wider turnout. Plus the brand was popular and relevant making for a film that moviegoers would be interested in paying to see.

Oz started out with a stellar $24.1M opening day on Friday which included $2M from Thursday night shows. Saturday saw a solid 37% boost to $33M while Sunday declined by 33% to $22M. Alice - another 3D family-oriented adventure released by Disney in early March - saw more of its mammoth opening weekend haul turn out upfront on Friday with Saturday inching up only 8%. It went on to finish its domestic run with nearly three times its opening figure and more than $1 billion worldwide. However, that film had the starpower of Johnny Depp and was released during the early stages of the 3D boom when movie fans were more eager to pay the higher ticket prices.

3D screens accounted for 53% of the gross for Oz this weekend which was encouraging for a PG-rated family film. 10% of the overall total came from the 307 IMAX locations where tickets ran as high as $20 each in New York City. With fairly positive reviews and a good B+ CinemaScore, Oz looks to have a promising road ahead. Next weekend will not see any direct competitors open so Disney is counting on a strong two-week run before the DreamWorks toon The Croods debuts on March 22.

2013 has been a mostly disappointing year with very few films scoring big openings or overperforming. Oz more than doubled the year's largest opening to date - Identity Thief's $34.6M. That comedy is also the top-grossing film of the year but the title will be swiped away by Oz next weekend. The magician and the three witches also grossed more on opening weekend than last year's budget-busting flops John Carter and Battleship made during their entire runs. Even last weekend's Jack the Giant Slayer won't reach a final North American tally close to Oz's great and powerful weekend.

Oz the Great and Powerful also opened day and date in 80% of the international marketplace this weekend and banked an estimated $69.9M from 46 territories making for a massive $149M worldwide opening. Some key markets like China and France are still to come later this month. Featuring a very American story and setting, Oz has less global appeal when compared to other recent movie franchises like The Hobbit, Harry Potter, James Bond, Pirates of the Caribbean, or even Wonderland. But 3D visual spectacles do sell and the studio made a conscious effort to tour the stars around the world in recent weeks for red carpet premieres in Tokyo, Moscow, and London to help energize global ticket buyers.

Despite its B+ CinemaScore grade last weekend when it opened, the big-budget fairy tale adventure Jack the Giant Slayer tumbled a disturbing 64% in its sophomore frame to $9.8M. Oz certainly took away much of the target audience but overall consumer excitement for the Warner Bros. release was never very strong to begin with. With $43.6M in ten days, Jack should end its domestic run with a disappointing $60-65M. Produced for nearly $200M excluding global marketing costs, the actioner will deliver substantial losses. The comedy hit Identity Thief held up well in its fifth weekend sliding only 35% to $6.3M giving Universal $116.6M to date.

Another month, another R-rated action film dies on impact. The Colin Farrell revenge pic Dead Man Down debuted poorly in fourth with only $5.3M for a weak $2,443 average from 2,188 locations. Adult men made up the core crowd as demographic data showed that the audience was 60% male and 75% over 25. Reviews were not very kind and moviegoers had little praise either as the CinemaScore was a lackluster B- for the FilmDistrict release.

Two films tied for fifth place with $5.1M a piece, separated by only $6,851. The Lionsgate action title Snitch posted a very good hold easing 34% with $31.9M to date. Relativity's party comedy 21 and Over dropped by a reasonable 42% and has banked $16.9M after ten days. The distributor's romance hit Safe Haven followed with $3.8M, down 40%, and a cume of $62.8M.

With Oscar heat evaporating, Silver Linings Playbook fell by 37% - the largest decline yet of its 17-week run. The Weinstein Co. release grossed $3.6M and upped its sum to an impressive $120.6M. The distributor claimed ninth place too with its animated entry Escape From Planet Earth which got hurt by Oz falling 51% to $3.2M. The 3D toon has collected $47.8M. Rounding out the top ten was the horror sequel The Last Exorcism Part II which crashed by 59% in its second weekend with $3.2M. Cume for CBS Films is $12.1M.

In the specialty arena, the Tommy Lee Jones film Emperor generated a mild debut with $1M from 261 locations for a soft $3,886 average for Roadside Attractions. Reviews were somewhat negative. Also in limited release, Michel Gondry's critically acclaimed film The We and the I debuted with strong results grossing $12,280 from a solo theater in New York ahead of an expansion to other top markets later this month from Paladin and 108 Media.

The top ten films grossed $124.6M which was up 7% from last year when The Lorax remained at number one in its second weekend with $38.8M; and up 11% from 2011 when Battle: Los Angeles debuted in the top spot with $35.6M.

Compared to projections, Oz opened ahead of my $70M forecast while Dead Man Down was on target with my $6M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Read the Blu-ray review of Wreck-It Ralph. Watch the NEW trailer for Iron Man 3.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Burt Wonderstone and The Call both open.

# Title Mar 8 - 10 Mar 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Oz the Great and Powerful $ 79,110,453 3,912 1 $ 20,223 $ 79,110,453 Disney
2 Jack the Giant Slayer 9,839,135 27,202,226 -63.8 3,525 2 2,791 43,630,504 Warner Bros.
3 Identity Thief 6,334,220 9,706,145 -34.7 3,002 5 2,110 116,565,105 Universal
4 Dead Man Down 5,345,250 2,188 1 2,443 5,345,250 FilmDistrict
5 Snitch 5,098,235 7,768,391 -34.4 2,340 3 2,179 31,853,362 Lionsgate
6 21 and Over 5,091,384 8,754,168 -41.8 2,771 2 1,837 16,875,359 Relativity
7 Safe Haven 3,753,384 6,278,530 -40.2 2,541 4 1,477 62,837,481 Relativity
8 Silver Linings Playbook 3,618,171 5,723,010 -36.8 1,727 17 2,095 120,622,513 Weinstein Co.
9 Escape From Planet Earth 3,218,923 6,619,827 -51.4 2,549 4 1,263 47,844,105 Weinstein Co.
10 The Last Exorcism Part II 3,167,040 7,728,354 -59.0 2,700 2 1,173 12,129,639 CBS
11 A Good Day to Die Hard 2,121,030 4,572,486 -53.6 1,725 4 1,230 63,367,431 Fox
12 Life of Pi 1,579,462 2,375,609 -33.5 671 16 2,354 119,367,614 Fox
13 Quartet 1,254,859 1,781,526 -29.6 715 8 1,755 13,245,690 Weinstein Co.
14 Dark Skies 1,254,261 3,468,553 -63.8 1,505 3 833 15,564,388 Weinstein Co.
15 Warm Bodies 1,015,996 2,578,256 -60.6 1,052 6 966 63,575,380 Summit
16 Emperor 1,014,134 261 1 3,886 1,014,134 Roadside Attr.
17 Argo 1,010,367 2,103,342 -52.0 741 22 1,364 134,282,925 Warner Bros.
18 Side Effects 869,117 1,748,144 -50.3 602 5 1,444 29,570,787 Open Road
19 Zero Dark Thirty 673,810 1,300,719 -48.2 522 12 1,291 94,628,369 Sony
20 Django Unchained 432,074 976,930 -55.8 336 11 1,286 161,100,526 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 105,727,293 $ 61,159,284 72.9
Top 10 124,576,195 87,821,690 41.9
Top 20 135,801,305 103,194,992 31.6
Top 20 vs. 2012 135,801,305 130,458,203 4.1

Last Updated: March 11, 2013 at 4:25PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 6:40pm ET.

©1997 - 2013 Box Office Guru