I was recently asked why if Disney Oz The Great and Powerful isn’t performing up to Disney Studios expectations have they already started working on a sequel? First off, working on a sequel and going into production are two different things. But secondly, Disney does have some amazing expectations for the Oz franchise. Heck Imagineering has already built a model of the Emerald City with expectations of adding it as a whole new land to a certain theme park.
According to BoxOfficeMojo, at $453 million so far, Oz is performing well versus other films released at the same time and versus previous years, but it’s disappointing when compared to the success of Tim Burton’s billion dollar box office hit Alice in Wonderland. Alice’s numbers were the stretch goal (aka best possible scenario) for Oz. I think Disney would have been happy to have reached 70 or 80 percent of Alice, but right now, it’s on trajectory for just over 50 percent.
There are still some international markets that Oz has yet to tap, so that number could rise. Either way, it’s still a profitable movie, but not a massive profit that will help prop up other movies that may not make a profit at all, which is what Disney had been hoping for.
Maybe Disney thinks the sequel will close that gap? I don’t know. But there is an unending appetite for things dealing with Oz.
Disney CEO Bob Iger’s tactic of releasing only 8 films a year means higher goals for all the films box office totals. It is a riskier game. Before when there were 16 films, you could throw in a few lower budget films with the hopes that one of them might break out and be a big success. Now, every film has to be big, and so the budgets are big, and the marketing is big, and the stars are big, and the end result is every movie from Disney starts to look the same ‘big’. The end result of that logic chain has been that audiences became a bit bored with ‘big’ and have decided to stay away until something new comes along (see John Carter and the case of the awful marketing package, it was big, but not new).
This isn’t just happening at Disney, btw. All the major studios have entered into this feedback loop of ‘big’ films with diminished responses from audiences. Avatar was ‘new’ so it was a huge hit. ‘The Avengers’ was a new type of Superhero film, it too enjoyed great box office success. (File Alice and the first Pirates trilogy under new as well, DIS is batting above average at least.)
The question for Iger and the studios now is what can they do that is ‘new’ and ‘big’, which is one of the reasons they just made a certain large purchase at the entertainment super market. They’re going to be looking for Avatar sized success out of the next trilogy, so I expect them to pull out all the stops. They’ll certainly have access to whatever technology Cameron has developed for Avatar parts II and III (the Avatar-land deal at Disney’s Animal Kingdom helped develop that partnership, and now the benefits of the partnership are keeping it moving forward when a lot of signs have said stop).
But back to Oz. One month in, it’s the 10th highest grossing film of the last 365 days. That’s not too shabby and reason alone to pursue possibilities for a sequel. The low box office compared to Alice says more about how broken the old blockbuster movie model is than Oz itself. Of all the mega movie studios, Disney is uniquely suited to survive this transition. But there will be more change ahead. In that light, this weeks 150 layoffs are a good step, but likely not the last adjustment to be made.
Do you agree with Iger’s decision to release fewer films will work in the longterm?