It looks like the yellow brick road is about to be paved with gold. "Oz the Great and Powerful" is poised to storm the box-office this weekend with a mammoth $90 million opening, according to industry experts and widely reported pre-release polling. Disney is predicting a more conservative $75 million for their sort-of prequel to 1939's classic "The Wizard of Oz."
However it shakes out, there is little doubt that the 3-D epic will have the biggest opening of 2013 thus far. The title character in "Oz" is played by James Franco, who recently told MTV News that his would-be wizard is "a bit of a goofball, but also kind of a ladies man." The movie reunites him with "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi and carried a reported $200-million-plus price-tag.
Going into the weekend, reports surfaced that Disney is already planning a sequel, which said something of the studio's optimism about the picture's prospects. If "Oz" passes the $100 million mark during its opening weekend, it will join "Alice in Wonderland" ($116 million) and "The Hunger Games" ($152 million) as the only movies to do so in the month of March.
"Disney's 'Oz: the Great and Powerful' has all the bells and whistles a modern blockbuster needs these days to be a gargantuan hit," Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock told MTV News. "Sure, it could use a little more heart, but the vast array of likable characters and the CGI realm created by Raimi and company make for an impressive journey. 'Oz' may not be the blockbuster that audiences want exactly, but with 2013's subpar offerings, it's the blockbuster they need right now."
International grosses should be very strong as well. " 'Oz' also opens day-and-date overseas in over than 80 percent of its targeted territories, so expect numbers on par with the stateside debut, and possibly more," Bock added. "Last spring's 'John Carter' was dud-on-arrival in the U.S. with $30 million in the US, but it hit $70 million across the pond."
Last weekend's #1 film, "Jack the Giant Slayer," only made $14 million overseas, despite its nearly $200 million production budget. Its $28 million stateside debut made it this year's first big-budget flop. "It will go down as a massive misfire for Warner Bros.," Bock said.
"Dead Man Down" is the only other new film going into wide release. It's a revenge drama starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace, from the director of the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Niels Arden Oplev.
"Noomi Rapace and Colin Farrell's chemistry is electric. But it feels more like something that is going to debut on VOD," said MovieFanatic.com's Joel Amos. "That feeling that it emits may hurt the movie in terms of its box office numbers."
Even on 2,175 screens, "Dead Man Down" won't gather more than $6 million this weekend, according to Bock. "Does anyone have the cojones to tell Colin Farrell that he just isn't headliner material?" Bock joked of the Irish star often loved by critics in smaller films but who has struggled to carry costly movies like the "Total Recall" and "Fright Night" remakes.
Overall, the box office has been off from last year (despite the $100 million-plus success of "Identity Thief"). The potential big success of "Oz," followed by "G.I. Joe 2" later this month, should certainly help rejuvenate theaters.
Check out everything we've got on "Oz the Great and Powerful."