By Charlie Schmidlin | Indiewire March 6, 2013 at 10:21AM
It's unfortunate that director Andrew Stanton has to deal with his $250 million-budgeted “John Carter” being synonymous with high-stakes cinematic failure, but such are the risks that come with the gamble. Bryan Singer is the latest to join the club however, after “Jack the Giant Slayer” ($195 million) swiftly bombed at the box office this past weekend, earning just $27.2 million. Now, Disney is again on the chopping block with their similarly massive “Oz The Great and Powerful" (our review),” but will Sam Raimi's direction and Mila Kunis' intense likability score a successful result at last for the studio?
Disney are obviously hoping for the sort of box-office that followed their 2010 Tim Burton-directed “Alice in Wonderland,” which took in more than $1 billion that year. 'Oz' is a unique venture for the studio though, one that finds its roots back during the production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” While a prequel to the classic 1939 musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” the new film starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, and Kunis is markedly not a song-strewn effort like the longstanding Broadway hit, “Wicked” (which itself has a film version brewing over at Universal with Stephen Daldry directing).
There is also the same blend of dark and goofy tones that befell 'Jack' -- not a strike on first glance, but Raimi will have to navigate it deftly to entice swaths of mainstream crowds. Additionally, the past cinematic efforts relating to the fantasy source material all suffered a dismal reception. The 1978 (now) cult classic “The Wiz” flopped upon arrival, as did Disney's 1985 film, “Return to Oz.” But one thing that can always be counted on from the Mouse House -- scores of advertising -- stand to turn this latest example into a winner.
The budget on the film has been reported to be $325 million including marketing, which has included pervasive TV, prints ads and billboards and more out there approaches including hot air balloon promos, Nascar appearances and even people standing at key points in various cities with iPads showing clips from the movie. And it seems to be have paid off. Tracking indicates the movie will have the biggest opening of 2013 so far with an estimated $80 million this weekend. It's not quite the $116 million 'Alice' hauled in when it opened, and while that figure won't lead to a frantic dash to greenlight more sequels, it does suggest the movie will at least turn a profit. And it should have good legs for the rest of the month with only "The Croods" coming on March 22nd to threaten its hold on family crowds.
But perhaps more important will be international ticket sales. They made up $690 million of the $1 billion plus take for 'Alice,' and even "John Carter" made more than twice its domestic earnings via overseas receipts. It's more and more becoming a crucial factor in the make or break of tentpoles, and it's a figure Disney may be keeping an eye on even more closely than whatever it does at home. Anyways, Disney will be able to breathe a little easier about their upcoming big-budget tentpoles, “The Lone Ranger” and “Maleficent” with Angelina Jolie, if 'Oz' does the business they expect. Barring anything going dreadfully wrong before Friday, it looks like they won't have to banish any executives to Barsoom. [Yahoo Finance/Deadline]