Disney's 'Oz' isn't entrancing the critics

That doesn't mean moviegoers will stay in Kansas. It does make the company's $225 million bet a bit more dicey, though.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 8, 2013 4:59PM
Mila Kunis & James Franco in 'Oz the Great and Powerful' (© Walt Disney/Everett/Rex Features)Walt Disney (DIS) has bet about $225 million that moviegoers will be eager to see "Oz the Great and Powerful," its much-hyped prequel to "The Wizard of Oz." Unfortunately, it has gotten scathing reviews from major film critics ahead of its opening weekend.

The Washington Post's
Anne Hornaday notes the film "constantly falls short of the inflated expectations it has set up for itself." Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal faults Disney for "betting vast sums of money on a film with a questionable concept, a prequel that not only invites but demands comparison to a peerless treasure of American culture." Writing in The New York Times, Manhola Dargis describes the film as an  "dispiriting, infuriating jumble of big money, small ideas and ugly visuals."

Hollywood's newest strategy is to put a new twist on old stories, but they've had a tough time pulling it off. Time Warner's (TWX) "Jack the Giant Slayer," a dark retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk," bombed at the box office as did 2012's "Rise of the Guardians," which featured a menacing Santa Claus and Easter Bunny.

Wall Street isn't pulling the curtain on "Oz" yet. Lazard Capital analyst Barton Crockett expects the film to gross about $400 million, fueled by a strong performance overseas, according to Bloomberg. Perhaps the film may be immune from the pointed barbs of professional critics. The Journal notes that surveys of moviegoers indicate the film may gross about $80 million in its opening weekend and that interest is strong overseas.

"Disney is marketing 'Oz' heavily, running interviews with the stars on the otherwise ad-free Disney Channel and sneak previews at its California Adventure theme park," Bloomberg says. "The company closed Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere, erecting a big balloon evoking memories of the 1939 film."

Under CEO Robert Iger, Disney has tried to create "tent pole" franchises, brands that generate sales through multiple films and consumer product sales. As part of that strategy, Disney last year acquired LucasFilm from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas for $4 billion and announced plans to produce more films in that beloved franchise. It acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in 2009 and acquired the Muppets from Jim Henson Co. in 2004 for an undisclosed price.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed shares. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Mar 8, 2013 7:05PM
saw it this morning...not recommended, the previews are the best parts, if that?
Mar 9, 2013 4:05AM

I must have different taste buds then the rest of you, as I like Miller light.  But, Miller High Light is awful.  Yes Bear is high.  Miller's bought Olympia beer and then shut down the plant.  It's the water.


Mar 8, 2013 6:25PM
I hope this film bombs so badly, that it has to be pulled from the theaters. I know Disney is Disney, but this was not only stupid, but took one hell of a lot of nerve to try to re-make, into YOUR version, one of the greatest films of all time. What is it that you thought you would do better? There are sone things that you just don't mess with, regardless of how much money you are trying to make by associating yourself with such a tremendous fame and reputation, such as what the original Oz has. By the same token, it was extremely stupid for those idiots to try to remake Snow White, when Disney HAD made it one of the greatest films of all time. They were doing the same thing Disney did with Oz. Can't we just shut down the film industry? The democrats in Washington pour MILLIONS of dollars a year into the film industry. There is plenty that could be done with the money.
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