Will 'Oz' Yield Magical Opening for Disney?

Oz the Great and Powerful
Source: Disney Enterprises
Oz the Great and Powerful

Disney's prequel to "The Wizard of Oz," "Oz: The Great and Powerful" was a risky move for the giant studio, which reportedly poured $215 million into producing the film.

Revisiting a beloved story can go either way when it comes to ticket sales. For example, Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" was a huge hit with movie-goers, but Relativity's take on the Snow White fairy tale, "Mirror Mirror," was a bomb.

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Disney also has a disadvantage when it comes to marketing. Since many of the rights are tied up, Disney won't be able to exploit the brand quite as much across all its platforms, as it could with its wildly successful "Alice in Wonderland" reboot, which grossed over $1 billion worldwide.

However, the film is off to a very strong start, with $2 million in Thursday night ticket sales. It's expected to bring in around $75 million or more at the U.S. box office this weekend, which would make it one of the biggest March openings ever. Its PG rating should help it bring in a broad family audience.

Reviews have been mixed, with a moderately positive critic rating of 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the audience rating is much higher—82 percent based on 41,000 reviews, a sign that word-of-mouth will be positive.

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Perhaps most importantly, the brand has huge awareness overseas. Disney is expected to yield big numbers when it opens in more than 80 percent of the international marketplace this weekend, including key territories like China and France. Following on the global success of "Alice" in 2010, "Oz" has the potential to yield bigger numbers internationally than here in the U.S.

The U.S. box office has been suffering so far this year, but "Oz" has the potential to turn things around for theater owners, and to kick off what looks like a very big year for Disney.

The studio has a lineup of established franchises: next up is "Iron Man 3" in May from Disney's Marvel division, followed by Pixar's "Monsters University" in June and "the Lone Ranger in July.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

NOTE: CNBC and Universal are both part of NBC Universal. Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal.