‘Oz The Great And Powerful’ Flexes Its Muscles With $80.3 Million Debut

Disney's prequel of sorts to the classic tale enjoys the third-biggest March opening in history.

It’s been nearly 74 years since Dorothy first walked the yellow brick road in “The Wizard of Oz” and over the weekend, the Emerald City and its residents captivated audiences once more. “Oz the Great and Powerful” topped the box office with a whopping $80.3 million debut, making Disney’s prequel of sorts to MGM’s 1939 classic the first big-budget blockbuster of 2013.

Featuring James Franco in the title role of author L. Frank Baum’s would-be wizard, “Oz” debuted in nearly 4,000 locations and enjoyed the benefits of pricier 3-D tickets and IMAX showings. It didn’t beat the $152.5 million of “The Hunger Games” nor the $116 million of “Alice in Wonderland,” but the inaugural “Oz” weekend did manage to place #3 on the all-time list for March.

“Evil Dead” franchise and “Spider-Man” trilogy mastermind Sam Raimi directed “Oz,” which received a B+ CinemaScore from audiences who saw it and has gotten mixed reviews from film critics, with a barely “fresh” 61 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. As Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock told MTV News last week, “‘Oz’ may not be the blockbuster that audiences want exactly, but with 2013′s subpar offerings, it’s the blockbuster they need right now.”

Indeed, the box-office has been down this year. For example, Colin Farrell may not have been in “The Expendables” but his R-rated revenge thriller suffered the same fate as 2013 action flicks from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. “Dead Man Down” took in an abysmal $5.35 million, despite boasting the director of the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” And of course the previous weekend’s “Jack the Giant Slayer” was a $200 million misfire, opening with just $28 million. During its second weekend, “Jack” fell 63 percent with $10.2 million for an overall total of just $43.8 million.

The Melissa McCarthy/Jason Bateman comedy “Identity Thief” had been the only real box-office bright spot before now and it continued to do well over the weekend, generating $6.3 million in its fifth weekend for a total of $116 million. “Bridesmaids” alum McCarthy will next be seen in “The Heat,” an action comedy that pairs her alongside Sandra Bullock.

The massive “Oz” opening beat Disney’s own $75 million estimate. The Mouse House was already happy enough with pre-release tracking to commission a sequel before “Oz: The Great and Powerful” hit screens. No director has been announced as of yet. Raimi’s interest in directing the film seemed slim when he spoke to the U.K.’s Hey U Guys recently. “I don’t really have a plan to direct the sequel. I’ve put into the picture one or two loose ends in case another director wants to make the picture,” he said. “I was attracted to it because of the story of the growth of this human being, and I don’t think the second one would have the thing I would need to get me interested, but I couldn’t speak about what would take place in it.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Oz the Great and Powerful.”