(Photo: Disney Enterprises)
USA TODAY - The Wizard of Oz may be all smoke and mirrors, but the guy delivers.
Oz the Great and Powerful, Disney's prequel to The Wizard of Oz, claimed the biggest debut of 2013, opening to $80.3 million, according to studio estimates from box office trackers Hollywood.com.
The opening was $10 million above most analysts' expectations and scored the third-biggest opening on record in March. The Hunger Games opened to $152.5 million, while Alice in Wonderland did $116.1 million.
Riding the crest of solid reviews - 60% of critics gave it a thumbs-up, says survey site RottenTomatoes.com - Oz wasn't challenged this weekend, a typically slow one as studios gear up for spring releases.
Fans were more supportive: 82% of moviegoers said they liked it, a good sign for the movie's legs over the next month. The film will have to score good word of mouth to help offset its $325 million budget.
David Mumpower, analyst for Boxofficeprophets.com, says Oz took advantage of a slow slate at theaters.
He says Oz flourished during a "box office lull created by an onslaught of low-budget horror films and little else. Oz the Great and Powerful was well positioned. Its performance is no surprise given these marketplace factors."
He adds: "We can say with certainty that the run of disappointing 2013 has stopped."
The updated fairy tale Jack the Giant Slayer took second with $10.2 million, followed by Melissa McCarthy's comedy Identity Thief with $6.3 million.
The revenge thriller Dead Man Down took fourth with $5.4 million, meeting the lower end of expectations. The Dwayne Johnson action film Snitch rounded out the top 5 with $5.1 million.
Final figures are due Monday.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)