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Disney's "Oz" prequel scores box office gold

(From L-R) Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, actress Abigail Spencer, actor James Franco, actresses Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Joe
(From L-R) Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, actress Abigail Spencer, actor James Franco, actresses Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Joe

By Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - There was no place like "Oz" at the weekend box office.

Walt Disney Co's big-budget 3D movie "Oz the Great and Powerful" amassed $80.3 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales, the biggest domestic debut of 2013. The prequel starring James Franco added $69.9 million in international markets, Disney said, for a combined $150.2 million opening around the world.

"Oz" dominated all other movies over the weekend, according to studio estimates released on Sunday. Another family film, "Jack the Giant Slayer," finished a distant No. 2 with $10 million domestically during its second weekend. Melissa McCarthy comedy "Identity Thief" landed third with $6.3 million from Friday through Sunday.

The opening numbers for "Oz" provided a strong start for the $200-million production, a prequel to 1939 Hollywood classic "The Wizard of Oz." The movie stars Franco as a small-time magician who is whisked by hot-air balloon to a magical land where he is mistaken for a wizard. Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz play three witches the wizard encounters on his journey.

Disney spent up to $100 million on a marketing campaign that featured the cross-country tour of a bright blue, Oz-themed hot-air balloon, a commercial during the Super Bowl, and movie-related fashions sold on shopping channel HSN. [ID:nL1N0BRAKB]

The expensive gamble paid off as families turned out to see the story of how the famous wizard came to lead the colorful land of Oz.

Disney's executive vice president for motion picture distribution Dave Hollis said the film hit a "sweet spot" in terms of timing; over the next few weeks, there will be little competition in the family film market, and many kids in the United States will be on school breaks and thus more likely to head to theaters.

He was mum on reports of a sequel. "It's too early to say too much," Hollis said. "I'm not really a part of that conversation at this time."

Before the weekend, Disney had projected domestic sales of around $70 million, while some box-office analysts saw receipts hitting as much as $85 million.

The big debut for "Oz" outshined the sluggish opening a week earlier for "Jack the Giant Slayer," another family-oriented film that puts a modern spin on a classic children's tale. The new take on "Jack and the Beanstalk," which cost $189 million to produce, pulled in $27.2 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters during its first three days.

Through Sunday, "Jack" had earned a total of $43.8 million domestically, plus $22.6 million from international markets.

The weekend's other new release, thriller "Dead Man Down," landed in fourth place on North American charts with $5.4 million. The movie stars Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace as two strangers who join together to seek revenge against a New York crime lord.

Drug drama "Snitch" took fifth place with $5.1 million in domestic sales.

Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, released "Jack the Giant Slayer." "Identity Thief" was distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp. Privately held FilmDistrict released "Dead Man Down." "21 and Over" was released by privately held Relativity Media.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski; Editing by Bill Trott and Christopher Wilson)

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