Forget the critics -- moviegoers flock to 'Oz'

Disney's 'Wizard of Oz' prequel grossed $80.3 million over the weekend, easily leading the pack at the box office.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 11, 2013 12:46PM
Mila Kunis & James Franco in 'Oz the Great and Powerful' (© Walt Disney/Everett/Rex Features)Walt Disney's (DIS) "Oz the Great and Powerful" proved impervious this weekend to reviews from professional critics that were nearly all scathing. The "Wizard of Oz" prequel grossed $80.3 million in its opening weekend, the most of any competitor.

The film's performance beat the $75 million expected by and bodes well for future financial results. Burbank, Calif.-based Disney deserves credit for effectively marketing the movie by "leveraging the brand's iconic imagery while still presenting a unique story for moviegoers to latch on to," according to Box Office Mojo.

The company spared little expense in trying to build an audience for "Oz." It bought a Super Bowl commercial for the film and ran ads for it in Disney theme parks and on its cable stations. The House of Mickey even closed Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere and sent an Oz-themed hot-air balloon on a cross-country tour.

Many moviegoers seemed to like the flick that the critics hated. One reviewer who used the handle Mr.Sosotris on IMDb called it "an enjoyable romp through a gorgeous landscape with enough insider references to merit multiple viewings." He described himself as a "huge Oz fan."

Some people may be tempted to check out the movie to see if the $225 million epic is as bad as the critics say. The public's decades-long affection for "The Wizard of Oz" certainly helps as well. "It's still a foregone conclusion that 'Oz' will make it to $200 million by the end of its run," according to Box Office Mojo.

"Oz" may also earn a pretty penny for Disney in merchandising, if the momentum continues.

Under CEO Robert Iger, Disney has spent billions on iconic entertainment brands such as "Star Wars," Marvel Entertainment and the Muppets. "Oz" is a bargain by comparison because L. Frank Baum's 13 Oz books are in the public domain, although Time Warner (TWX) owns the classic "Wizard of Oz" film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the two companies are feuding over intellectual property issues related to "Oz."

--Jonathan Berr doesn't own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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