Oz the Great and Powerful is about to have the best opening weekend of 2013 at the North American box office -- by a wide margin. Part of the reason for the Oz the Great and Powerful feat is this year's dismal box office figures to date: if, as expected, the 3D fantasy directed by Spider-Man's Sam Raimi, and starring James Franco (also of Spider-Man fame) in the title role, manages to gross around $80m from 3,912 locations by Sunday evening, that'll place it ahead of the cumulative grosses of all but one 2013 release, the Melissa McCarthy / Jason Bateman comedy Identity Thief ($110.21 million to date). (Photo: Oz the Great and Powerful James Franco.)
Oz the Great and Powerful took in an estimated $2 million at Thursday evening and midnight screenings. It's expected to earn approximately $23m-25 million today (apparently that includes the Thursday showings), according to Deadline.com. Now, bear in mind that those are very early, rough estimates; those figures could change quite a bit by the time Disney releases its own Friday estimate on Saturday morning.
Oz the Great and Powerful vs. Alice in Wonderland, Jack the Giant Slayer, Snow White and the Huntsman
For comparison's sake: Tim Burton's own 3D fantasy, Alice in Wonderland, starring Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp, earned $3.9 million at midnight screenings in March 2010, raking in an astounding $116.1 million in its first three days out. Another 3D entry, Bryan Singer's Jack and the Giant Slayer, didn't fare nearly as well: starring Nicholas Hoult and Ewan McGregor, the $195m-budgeted fantasy adventure took in a measly $27.2 million when it opened last weekend.
Of note: Last spring, Rupert Sanders' darker, more adult-oriented 2D Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron, collected, without the assistance of 3D surcharges, $1.55 million at midnight screenings, grossing $56.21 million by Sunday evening.
Oz the Great and Powerful budget, cast
Oz the Great and Powerful reportedly cost anywhere between $200m and $215 million, depending on the source, and not including marketing and distribution expenses. Besides 2010 Best Actor Oscar nominee James Franco (127 Hours), the prequel to The Wizard of Oz features Mila Kunis (Black Swan), three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, My Week with Marilyn), Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), in addition to Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, and Joey King.
Mitchell Kapner (Days of Wrath) and David Lindsay-Abaire (Rise of the Guardians, Rabbit Hole) are credited for the screenplay. The Oz the Great and Powerful producer is Joe Roth, among whose credits are the aforementioned Alice in Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman, in addition to Robert Stromberg's upcoming fantasy Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.
In the last couple of days, Oz the Great and Powerful also opened in most major international territories, including Mexico, Spain, Australia, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
The Wizard of Oz movie versions
There have been several movie versions of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, including a 1910 short featuring future silent film star Bebe Daniels as Dorothy; a 1925 feature directed by comedian Larry Semon (who also plays the Scarecrow), and featuring Dorothy Dwan as Dorothy, Charles Murray as the Wizard, and Oliver Hardy in a supporting role; and MGM's 1939 classic directed by Gone with the Wind's Victor Fleming, and starring Judy Garland as Dorothy and featuring Frank Morgan as the Wizard. (It's hard to imagine James Franco evolving into Frank Morgan, but I'm assuming stranger things have happened.)
Oz the Great and Powerful James Franco photo: Walt Disney Enterprises.