Disney's 3D epic Oz the Great and Powerful should quickly transform into a box office wizard when opening around the globe this weekend.
The Wizard of Oz origins story is clicking with all demos -- including families -- and could debut anywhere between $80 million and $100 million in North America, according to pre-release tracking. Disney is predicting a more cautious $75 million, considering the bleak performance of the domestic box office so far this year.
PHOTOS: 'Oz the Great and Powerful' - How Sam Raimi Brought the Legend Back to Life
Director Sam Raimi's Oz should score the third best March opening of all time after last year's The Hunger Games ($152.5 million) and fellow Disney fantasy-adventure Alice in Wonderland, which debuted to $116.1 million in 2008.
Costing $215 million to produce and rated PG, Oz begins playing in many theaters at 9 p.m. Thursday in North America before opening everywhere on Friday morning. Its performance will be buoyed by the fact that 13 percent of kids will be out of school as of Friday. Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz remains a perennial classic for families.
Raimi's Oz also gets its start in much of the world this weekend, beginning with Russia, Germany, Australia, Korea and Italy on Thursday. Friday, it expands into a total of 46 territories, including the U.K., Spain, Mexico, Japan and Brazil.
Oz tells the story of how the wizard, played by James Franco, actually became the wizard. The three witches central to the story are played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams.
The weekend's only other new wide release is Dead Man Down, starring Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard and Noomi Rapace. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev -- director of the original Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- the R-rated thriller is looking at a soft opening in the $6 million to $8 million range.
FilmDistrict acquired rights to Dead Man Down from IM Global, Original Films and Frequency Films.
Oz is the second tentpole of the year after New Line and Legendary Pictures' Jack the Giant Slayer, which opened to a troubled $27.2 million last weekend at the domestic box office. Oz will make life tough for Jack, which could decline more than 50 percent in its second outing.
Disney, hoping for another Alice in Wonderland, which grossed north of $1 billion worldwide, has spent north of $300 million on Oz when accounting for marketing costs.
Opening in a limited run is Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones' post-World War II historical drama Emperor. Directed by Peter Webber, the film is set in Japan immediately following the war. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate acquired U.S. rights to the film from Krasnoff Foster Productions.
- Arts & Entertainment