Forecast: 'Oz' To Cast a Spell Over Lifeless Box Office
Midnight Update: Oz The Great and Powerful opened to an estimated $2 million from Thursday night and midnight shows. That's about half of Alice in Wonderland ($3.9 million), though it's above Snow White and the Huntsman ($1.55 million), which had more midnight appeal thanks to its older-skewing audience and Summer release date. That Snow White figure suggests Oz will earn at least $70 million, though it could definitely go higher.

Forecast: The first 2013 movie with legitimate blockbuster potential hits theaters this weekend, and it should be powerful enough to at least temporarily improve the dreary domestic box office.

Thanks to its strong brand, persistent marketing, and total lack of competition, Oz The Great and Powerful will easily have the strongest debut of the year so far when it opens at 3,912 locations this weekend. Revenge thriller Dead Man Down also opens nationwide this weekend, though it has received a very light marketing push and won't come close to cracking $10 million.

Oz The Great and Powerful returns audiences to the land of Oz, which was most-memorably portrayed on the big-screen in 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. That remains one of the most beloved movies in American cinema history, and it's nearly impossible to find someone who hasn't seen it. Oz The Great and Powerful retains many of that movie's iconic elements including the black-and-white Kansas opening, a green Wicked Witch, an angelic Good Witch, the Munchkins, and the Emerald City.

Disney's omnipresent marketing effort—which included a pricey Super Bowl advertisement—has done a nice job highlighting these tie-ins while also hinting at a new, high-stakes adventure involving the title character of the Wizard. This should be enough to draw a diverse crowd, though it's likely that families (who have so far been neglected in 2013) make up the majority of moviegoers.

In March 2010, Disney's Alice in Wonderland—also a CGI-heavy, 3D re-imagination of a classic story—shocked everyone when it opened to an incredible $116.1 million. While Oz's brand is stronger than Alice's, there are a handful of reasons why Oz won't match that figure. First, Oz's appealing cast doesn't hold a candle to the one-two punch of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton circa 2010. Also, Alice was the first major 3D release after Avatar, and as a result 70 percent of its opening weekend gross came from 3D. Three years later, audiences have soured a bit on the technology, and a 3D share closer to 50 percent is likely for Oz. Finally, despite making a ton of money, Alice's reputation isn't all that great, and that could cause some people to take a wait-and-see approach with similar movie Oz.

Some may argue that Oz will also be negatively affected by the 2013 box office "slump." The reality is quite the opposite: the "slump" is a result of uninteresting titles, and therefore there's likely a lot of pent-up demand among moviegoers. Oz is a strong-enough option that it should finally get those audiences to turn out, and an opening north of $80 million seems like a foregone conclusion.

Oz is also opening in most international markets (around 80 percent), where it could earn over $100 million this weekend.

At 2,188 locations, revenge thriller Dead Man Down is targeting the older male audience that isn't going to be as interested in Oz. Unfortunately, that strategy hasn't been working too well in 2013: for example, Dead Man Down distributor FilmDistrict could only get Parker to a $7 million opening, and that was with a bigger marketing push. In fact, FilmDistrict has gone light on Dead Man Down's advertising, and instead seems to be focused on Olympus Has Fallen.

What marketing there is portrays Dead Man Down as pretty standard revenge fare, though it's hard even to tell who's getting revenge on who. Add in the fact that Colin Farrell has at-best a spotty box office track record—Seven Psychopaths could only muster $4.2 million last October—and it's a foregone conclusion that Dead Man Down will open below $10 million (FilmDistrict is expecting mid-to-high single digits).

Roadside Attractions is releasing World War II drama Emperor in to 260 locations. The Tommy Lee Jones/Matthew Fox movie has been getting a bit of a promotional push in the past week or two, though it would be lucky to earn over $1 million this weekend.

Forecast (March 8-10)

1. Oz - $92.4 million

2. Jack the Giant Slayer - $13 million (-52%)

3. Identity Thief - $6.3 million (-35%)

4. Dead Man Down - $5.5 million

Bar for Success

It's unreasonable to expect Oz to equal Alice in Wonderland's absurd $116.1 million debut. Instead, the movie ought to be matching past early March hits The Lorax and 300, which means it gets a pass at $70 million. Dead Man Down, on the other hand, is in good shape at $10 million, though that's looking really unlikely.

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