James Franco stars in "Oz the Great and Powerful."
This weekend, Sam Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful" became the first bona fide blockbuster of the young year (sorry "Identity Thief").
The reasons for any big hit are hard to categorize, and this one's a little more difficult than most. It's a big title that can't draft off the big title. It has four lead actors who are not quite A-listers but who may add up to more than the sum of their parts. (“We wanted to do something with a quartet that collectively said something to the audience,” said producer Joe Roth.) It was a Disney 3-D spectacle that, with James Franco and overtones to a 1939 musical, was also calibrated for audiences of a certain age.
"Oz" filmgoers didn't lean one way or another on gender or age; as my colleague Amy Kaufman notes, ticket buyers were nearly 50-50 between men and women, as they were for those older and younger than 25.
So what was the main draw for audiences this weekend? Some of the likely factors, and a poll for your interactive pleasure.
Francophrenia. James Franco's fan base exists, but its composition isn't easy to discern. Is it young women? Hipsters? "General Hospital" devotees? How deep does his consistuency go, and did they turn out in numbers this weekend?
Brand Oz. Raimi didn't riff much on Dorothy (a choice) or use iconic images like ruby slippers (a copyright). But thanks to L. Frank Baum's century-old novels, he still was able to put "Oz" in the title and use flying monkeys, munchkins and other things Emerald City. How many fans came because of these associations above all else?
Three witches. Michelle Williams rarely acts in tent poles. Rachel Weisz hasn't been a force for on-screen evil since she sang in "Definitely, Maybe." Mila Kunis has become the people's choice ever since she talked chicken and bad English football. Did they bring in filmgoers?
Disney do-right. Many a fairy-tale reinvention has failed in recent years--or, in the case of "Jack the Giant Slayer," recent weeks. But with "Alice in Wonderland" and "Oz," Disney continues to make it work. How many turned out because of the Mouse-y imprimatur?
VIDEO: Zach Braff on flying monkeys and body jumpsuits
The look. Raimi and production designer Robert Stromberg took great care in making this look deeper and richer than most 3-D pics. But not all of that can come through on our old-fashioned 2-D sets, no matter how flat the screens are. How many people who saw the ads came because of the visuals?
Family matters. Putting out a family-friendly movie generally gives you a little head start. Sometimes parents just need something to take their kids to, which is why we're unusually hopeful about our pitch for a live-action “Davey and Goliath” reboot. How many people came because they wanted to take the kids to the movies for a few hours and this was the most feasible option?