Box Office: Oz Still Great And Powerful, The Call Surprises And Burt Wonderstone Is Far From Incredible


These sisters have some Cruel Intentions. If only they could be Friends with Benefits.

Okay, boys and girls. I’m back with my box office musings after a week up in Austin for South By Southwest. Hope you didn’t miss me too much. Scott wanted to have my face plastered on milk cartons regarding my whereabouts, then I told Scott that they don’t do that anymore. I’m back, so let’s get this box office column on the road.

Disney must be grateful that Oz: Great and Powerful wasn’t a one-week wonder at the box office. In what could have easily soured and been this year’s John Carter in terms of a big financial loss for the studio, Oz is like Alice in Wonderland‘s kid brother. It may not make the billion-plus that that film did, but it is the family film event movie of spring break. (Sorry, Jack the Giant Slayer.) If it ends up making anywhere near the $600-$800 million expected once international figures are factored in, Disney will be happy. Granted, the studio invested more than $300 million in both production and P&A costs, so if it makes double that then you have to figure that a good investment. Besides, they have so much ancillary earnings that the studio could probably get away with one or two more John Carter performances and make it up somewhere else.

So why was Oz successful and Jack the Giant Slayer not? Timing is most likely the biggest factor. Not that there was anything wrong with Bryan Singer’s giant-slaying movie, but its #1 opening followed by big drops just goes to show you how much Warner Bros. is floundering as a studio this first quarter of 2013. Plus, Disney is a whole different league when it comes to merchandising its wares. But the success of Oz and Universal’s Identity Thief continues a disturbing trend in that there’s only been two wide-appeal hits in the first three months of the year. That’s pathetic. I’m sure summer can’t come soon enough for Hollywood.

Opening in second place, and outpacing early predictions of being a box office casualty, was the Halle Berry starring vehicle The Call. Produced by WWE Films of all companies and released through Sony Pictures, the suspense thriller proved that females make up a large chunk of the horror/suspense fanbase. And the advertisements, pushed hard during shows that skewer to a large female demo, did their best to get women to theaters over the weekend. Having the main faces be Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin didn’t hurt either. With no prominent male protagonist, the film carried a simple premise with an even simpler title. So, of course, that means box office gold, right?

The big winner with The Call has to be WWE Films. Yes, production outfit World Wrestling Entertainment made the film and sold it to Sony. The modest success of the film also gives exposure to director Brad Anderson, who has yet to have a mainstream hit, and is responsible for such films as “Watch Christian Bale Wither Away On Screen” (better known as The Machinist) and Transsiberian with Ben Kingsley. As for Ms. Berry, well she’s just lucky to be getting starring roles. She’s been box office poison for quite a while and hasn’t been in a hit film since X-Men: The Last Stand. Last year she was in the shark movie Dark Tide. Anybody see it? Exactly.

With a good assemblage of talent, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone looked like it could have been a box office winner over the weekend. But its premise (a Sigfried and Roy duo up against a Criss Angel-type) seems like it should have arrived in the middle part of the 2000s. The last time we saw Steve Carell and Jim Carrey together it was in the comedy hit Bruce Almighty. Warner Bros. may be looking to the Almighty in hopes for a cure-all. Wonderstone is the latest flop for the studio, a streak that also includes Jack the Giant Slayer, Beautiful Creatures, Gangster Squad, and Bullet to the Head. Warner Bros. performance this first quarter of 2013 is eerily similar to what happened back in 2010 when Universal had at least six films that failed to recoup their production budgets (the Zac Efron starrer Charlie St. Cloud cost $44 million. A Kleenex box weepie cost that much? Really?) That year the studio only had two films eclipse $100 million domestically. Warner Bros. better keep its fingers crossed and hope that The Great Gatsby and The Hangover Part III don’t flounder.

After a disastrous week two drop, Jack the Giant Slayer managed a so-so hold for its third weekend. The damage has been felt and Warner Bros. presses on. Identity Thief, which was the biggest 2013 movie, ceded that title to Oz over the weekend, but considering how bad the comedies are at the moment, it should be able to play through most of April in the top 10. Behind it was Snitch, which is approaching $40 million. Not bad for a Dwayne Johnson actioneer that is basically a melodrama in actioneer clothing. We’ll be hearing more from Johnson in the coming months; he has films coming out in March, April and May. He wants to make sure everyone knows what he’s cooking at the box office.

21 and Over proved that it wasn’t The Hangover: The College Years, or any good college comedy for that matter. Silver Linings Playbook continues to play like gangbusters with audiences in week 18 while the rest of the major Best Picture contenders are either on DVD or will be arriving soon. Dead Man Down dropped like a stone out of the top ten and scraping the bottom of the box office barrel we had Escape From Planet Earth and Safe Haven. They’ll be gone from the list this time next week.

In terms of what’s playing at the local arthouse, it was Spring Break Forever for Spring Breakers. It collected $270k at only three theaters. That bodes well for the film’s upcoming expansion into 600 theaters this weekend. Also getting solid returns were From Up On Poppy Hill, which generated $55k at only two theaters, and Ginger and Rosa debuted to $45k at three locations.

What’s on tap for the weekend. We have the first DreamWorks Animation film to be released by 20th Century Fox, The Croods, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds. For those who are upset about not being able to visit the White House, FilmDistrict gives you the next best thing with its Olympus Has Fallen and its “Die Hard at the White House premise.” Finally, there’s the new lighthearted comedy Admission, starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.

So will Oz continue its streak of top place finishes or will it fall to Olympus/

Weekend Box-Office Top Ten for March 15 – March 17, 2013

1. Oz The Great and Powerful (Disney) – $42.2 MILLION ($145m cume)

2. The Call (Sony Pictures) – $17.1 MILLION

3. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Warner Bros) – $10.3 MILLION

4. Jack the Giant Slayer (Warner Bros/New Line) – $6.2 MILLION ($53.9m cume)

5. Identity Thief (Universal) – $4.5 MILLION ($123.7m cume)

6. Snitch (Lionsgate/Summit) – $3.5 MILLION ($37.25m cume)

7. 21 and Over (Relativity) – $2.62 MILLION ($21.9m cume)

8. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $2.58 MILLION ($124.6m cume)

9. Safe Haven (Relativity) – $2.5 MILLION ($67m cume)

10. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $2.3 MILLION ($52.1m cume)

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