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Oz works its magic; lands biggest opening of the year

James Franco led the cast of Oz The Great and Powerful to an incredible $80.3 million victory at the US box office.

Topping the charts with the biggest debut the year has seen by far, Oz The Great and Powerful opened in the US to a mighty $80.3 million, more than doubling the year’s previous record for biggest opening, which was held by Identity Thief with $34.6 million. Oz tells the story of how a Kansas magician, played by James Franco, came to be the storied Wizard of Oz and met three witches along the way – Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. The CGI-heavy reworked fairytale seemed to mimic the formula of Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice In Wonderland, which debuted to $116.1 million and went on to gross over $1 billion worldwide. Oz began its international rollout with $69.9 million in 47 territories, ranking first on the overseas charts, including in the UK.

The healthy ticket sales were welcome at the US box office, where revenue has dwindled 15% this winter from the same period in 2012. Much negative attention has been heaped on Jack The Giant Slayer, which assumed the number two spot, dropping to $10 million in its second week and has now only grossed $43.8 million through 10 days – bad news for the effects-heavy project, which was budgeted at around $200 million. Jack The Giant Slayer opens in the UK March 22.

The Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman comedy Identity Thief managed to stay in the top three with $6.3 million in its fifth weekend. The only release of the year to surpass $100 million in total earnings so far, the farcical flick has now grossed $116.5 million and is set to surpass director Seth Gordon’s past comedy titles Horrible Bosses ($117.5 million) and Four Christmases ($120.1 million). UK audiences can see the picture March 22.

Dead Man Down, starring Noomi Rapace and Colin Farrell and from director Niels Arden Oplev of the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, bombed with a $5.4 million opening in fourth place. Despite its high-profile talent, the revenge thriller became the latest in a slew of projects to debut under $10 million, with 16 of the 30 wide releases this year having that unfortunate distinction, including fellow action flicks Parker ($7 million), The Last Stand ($6.3 million), and Bullet To The Head ($4.6 million). Dead Man Down opens in the UK May 3.

Holdovers took the next two spots, with action thriller Snitch landing in fifth place with $5.1 million for a total of $31.9 million through three weekends. College comedy 21 and Over took sixth place with $5.06 million, for a weak 10-day total of $16.8 million. In UK cinemas, Snitch will drop April 5 while 21 and Over premieres May 3.

Seventh and eighth places went to romantic fare – Safe Haven finished its fourth weekend with $3.8 million for a total of $62.9 million, while Silver Linings Playbook continued to enjoy its robust run with $3.8 million in its 17th week of release, for a total of $120.7 million.

Rounding out the US top 10 were family film Escape From Planet Earth with $3.2 million in its fourth weekend for a total of $47.8 million, and horror sequel The Last Exorcism Part II, whose failure was cemented with a dismal $3.1 million in its second weekend, bringing its total to just $12.1 million.

On the international charts, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters trailed Oz in second place with $11.2 million, followed by A Good Day to Die Hard in third with $9.1 million, Mama in fourth with $6.3 million, and a tie for fifth between Les Miserables and Beautiful Creatures, each with $5.8 million.

Suffering studios will be hoping that next weekend builds on the upward trend, with the release of Steve Carell comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone in the US and UK. In the states, Halle Berry’s thriller The Call will also be released, while UK audiences will have action thrillers Red Dawn and Welcome to the Punch to choose from, as well as comedy Vinyl.

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