Box Office Preview: 'Oz' Eyeing Great and Powerful Global Opening

Oz The Great and Powerful Franco Still - H 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful Franco Still - H 2013

Sam Raimi's tentpole could open anywhere between $80 million and $100 million in North America, where it begins rolling out in theaters at 9 p.m. Thursday; the fantasy-adventure also makes a major push overseas.

Disney's 3D epic Oz the Great and Powerful should transform quickly 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 prerelease tracking. Disney is predicting a more cautious $75 million, considering the bleak performance of the domestic box office so far this year.

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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 2010.

Costing $215 million to produce and rated PG, Oz begins playing in many North American theaters at 9 p.m. Thursday before opening everywhere on Friday morning.

Raimi's Oz also gets its start in much of the world this weekend, beginning with Russia, Germany, Australia, Korea and Italy on Thursday. On Friday, it expands to a total of 46 territories, including the U.K., Spain, Mexico, Japan and Brazil.

The film tells the story of how a fast-talking Kansas circus worker (James Franco) became the Wizard of Oz. 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, who helmed the original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that starred Rapace, the R-rated thriller is looking at a soft opening in the $6 million to $8 million range.

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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 troubling $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.

The studio received word on Thursday that Oz has been given a March 29 release date in China, a coveted territory for Hollywood tentpoles. That's only four days after Jack opens in that country.

Opening in a limited run is Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones' historical drama Emperor. Directed by Peter Webber, the film is set in Japan immediately following World War II. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate acquired U.S. rights to the film from Krasnoff Foster Productions.