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The 15 most impressive box office performances of 2013 -- so far

We’re officially halfway through 2013, and if you’re an obsessive box office junkie like me, that means it’s time to reflect back on the past six months at the movies and give credit to some of the best box office performances so far this year.

By “best,” I don’t simply mean “highest grossing” — you can find that list here – I mean most impressive. Since each movie has its own budget, its own marketing costs, and its own distribution challenges, each movie also has its own standard for success. I like to judge films on their own rubrics — so I have!

This year, there were a lot of close calls. Films like Oz The Great and Powerful and This is the End were this close to making the list (A Good Day to Die Hard and Jack the Giant Slayer, meanwhile, were not), but not everything could make the cut. Thus, here is my totally-up-for-debate list of the 15 Most Impressive Box Office Performances of 2013 so far. (Shown in order of highest-to-lowest grossing)
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Box office report: 'The Croods' scores rock solid $44.7M, 'Olympus Has Fallen' strong in second

This weekend, The Croods proved that cave people have more pop culture appeal than just Geico commercials.

The $135 million film, which features vocal performances by Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, and Ryan Reynolds, bashed up a strong $44.7 million in its first three days — the second best debut of 2013 behind Oz‘s $79.1 million bow. The colorful family film was produced by DreamWorks Animation, whose last film, Rise of the Guardians, severely underperformed and forced the company to take an $87 million write-down. Thus, The Croods‘ success (for reference, Rise opened with just $23.7 million on its way to a $103.2 million domestic finish) is vindicating for the Jeffrey-Katzenberg-owned studio.

For distributor Fox, who inked a five-year distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation last year, The Croods is poised to become a massive success. The film opened in the same range as 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift ($46.7 million) and higher than the studio’s 2011 release, Rio, which began its flight with $39.2 million.

With an “A” CinemaScore and Easter/Spring Break ahead for many young school-goers — plus the fact that there are literally no family or animated films hitting theaters until Epic on May 24 — The Croods could evolve into a box office mammoth. A $200 million domestic finish wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Internationally, The Croods proved equally appealing, bowing with $63.3 million for a sizzling $108 million global total after its first three days. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Croods' cruises to No. 1 on Friday with $11.6 million; 'Admission' rejected

Fox’s $135 million family film The Croods climbed out of its cave and straight to No. 1 at the box office on Friday, taking in $11.6 million in its first 24 hours. The colorful comedy, which was produced by DreamWorks Animation (whose last film, Rise of the Guardians, forced the company to take an $87 million write-down), will benefit from strong Saturday showings and Sunday matinees with parents and children, and it should finish the weekend with a rock-solid $42 million.

In second, FilmDistrict’s White House thriller Olympus Has Fallen broke out with a strong $10 million and is headed for a $28 million weekend — a better start than February’s A Good Day to Die Hard, which took in $24.8 million in its first weekend. The action film, which stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman, cost Millennium Films $70 million to produce. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'The Croods' will oust 'Oz' from top spot

Oz has reigned atop the box office for two weeks, but Fox’s family flick The Croods is ready to club the Disney tentpole out of the pole position this weekend.

Two other new releases, the White House thriller Olympus Has Fallen and the Tina Fey/Paul Rudd comedy Admission, should also make notable debuts, as will Harmony Korine’s “Disney Channel starlets gone bad” film Spring Breakers, which is expanding from three theaters to over 1,000 locations.

Here’s how the box office may shake out:

1. The Croods – $40 million
The caveman comedy will be the first film distributed under the new five-year DreamWorks Animation/Fox deal. From 2006 to 2012, DreamWorks Animation had its films distributed by Paramount. Both companies took a big hit last year with Rise of the Guardians, which forced DreamWorks Animation to take an $87 million writedown. The Croods should fare much better. It’s more colorful, more comedic, and facing less competition for families than Rise was in November. Fox has marketed the film, which cost about $135 million, aggressively, and the distributor has a proven formula for success — they launched Rio to $39.2 million in spring 2011. Out in a massive 4,046 theaters, The Croods could earn $40 million over its first three days.

2. Oz The Great and Powerful – $22 million
The $215 million production, which has already earned $153 million domestically, would fall more sharply against The Croods if it played exclusively to families. Thankfully, Oz is hitting with more than just parents and kids. As it stands, the film may drop by nearly 50 percent to $22 million, giving it a $178 million total.

3. Olympus Has Fallen – $21 million
FilmDistrict will distribute Millennium Entertainment’s $70 million White House thriller, which stars Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Aaron Eckhart in 3,098 theaters. Olympus is entering a market that has been especially unkind to male-driven action in recent months, but its buzz seems to have built nonetheless. Seeing the White House in danger is a popular novelty — a second White House action movie, White House Down, will hit theaters this summer — and Olympus‘ strong advertising images will bring in men over the age of 18, with whom the R-rated film has been tracking well. Plus, Morgan Freeman!  All told, expect about $21 million over the weekend.

4. Admission – $9 million
Everyone likes Tina Fey. And everyone likes Paul Rudd. But people like them because they make them laugh — something that ads for Admission, Focus Features’ $13 million college admission comedy, have failed to do. Fey’s fans like her because she’s sharp, not sweet, so they may skip this one. And the weak performances of How Do You Know, Wanderlust, and Our Idiot Brother suggest that Rudd is a bigger draw in male-targeting comedies than female-friendly relationship tales. Focus is releasing Admission in 2,160 theaters, where it may only make about $9 million.

5. The Call – $8.5 million
The Halle Berry thriller dialed up a successful debut weekend, but with mediocre buzz and loads of new competition, there’s no reason it should hold especially well. The Call may dip 50 percent to $8.5 million, which would give it nearly $31 million total. Not half bad considering the TriStar-released film cost only $15 million to produce.

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers has a shot at breaking into the Top 5, if it isn’t too weird for mainstream America. The film earned $263,000 from three theaters last weekend, encouraging distributor A24 to push it into 1,104 locations this time around. Spring Breakers has garnered massive publicity from the casting of Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, two Disney starlets eager to shed their good-girl images. Still, that doesn’t always translate into box office numbers, and Breakers is an off-center film that may struggle to connect with audiences. Curiosity may help pull in about $6 million for the weekend.

Check back to EW all weekend to see how all these films end up doing!

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Watch the black-and-white opening credits for 'Oz The Great and Powerful'

Disney has released a clip of Oz The Great and Powerful — the mesmerizing opening credits.

The visuals in Disney’s hit film are certainly a selling point, already launching clothing and nail polish lines that emulate the rich colors and magical environment that director Sam Raimi created for the movie. But the first few minutes, like the original Wizard of Oz, are in black and white. Created by designer Garson Yu and his Yu + Co, the opening of the film was inspired by the arc of the story.

“Our goal with the opening title sequence was to set the tone for the audience to enter the unique, imaginative world that Sam Raimi created,” Yu’s web site says of the sequence. “The black and white, stereo 4×3 sequence was designed to flow seamlessly into the film’s first scenes which are set in Kansas in 1905.”

Inspiration for the credits came from the films of George Melis, according to an interview with Cinemablend, and his multi-layered approach to the flowing, moving title sequence.

The title sequence looks better on the big screen in 3-D, but you can still appreciate the artistry in the clip below.

(And the entire Internet will be quick to point out that there is a bit of a spoiler at about 23 seconds. So in case you didn’t already know what the big “twist” is in Oz, the credits might inform you.)

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Box office report: 'Oz' endures with $42.2 million; 'The Call' dials up better numbers than 'Burt Wonderstone'

James Franco had a great weekend at the box office. Not only did his $215 million blockbuster Oz The Great and Powerful top the chart for a second time, his edgy indie Spring Breakers made a big splash in limited release.

Oz dropped by a modest 47 percent to $42.2 million this weekend, lifting its domestic total to $145 million. In doing so, Oz surpassed Identity Thief to become the biggest hit of 2013 so far. Overseas, Oz hasn’t had quite as magical of a run. The film conjured another $46.6 million from 55 territories (about 85 percent of the international market) and has now grossed a $136.8 million abroad. The fact that the domestic total still leads the international total for an effects-driven spectacle is a testament to The Wizard of Oz’s enduring equity in American culture and its lack of such equity overseas. Still, let’s not pretend that Disney is sad about a 10-day total of $281.8 million worldwide. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Oz' wins Friday with $11.4 million; 'The Call' crushes 'Burt Wonderstone'

Disney’s $215 million adventure Oz The Great and Powerful kept marching right down the yellow brick road to profitability on its second Friday in theaters. The film, which crossed the $100 million mark on Thursday, its sixth day of release, earned another $11.4 million yesterday, putting it on pace for a $44 million weekend, a $146 million total, and an easy first-place finish.

In second, Halle Berry’s latest, The Call, performed way above expectations in 2,507 theaters. Distributor Sony/TriStar was only expecting the film to open in the $10-12 million range, but thanks to a robust $6.2 million Friday, the thriller is headed for an opening of about $17 million. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' will lack the magic of 'Oz'

A new magician movie and telephonic thriller are stepping onto the box office stage to take on the blockbuster wizard, Oz The Great and Powerful, this weekend. But Disney doesn’t need to worry. Here’s how the box office may play out:

1. Oz The Great and Powerful – $47 million

Disney’s $215 million Sam Raimi-directed fairy tale scored a blazing $79.1 million last weekend, and it has no chance of leaving the top spot this time around. Word-of-mouth on the film is solid, and neither of this weekend’s two newcomers will challenge Oz when it comes to attracting families. A 40-percent drop would give Oz a very great and very powerful second weekend of $47 million and a running total just shy of $150 million. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Oz' makes munchkins of competition with huge $80.3 million bow

Thanks to the release of Oz: The Great and Powerful, Disney is seeing green this morning, or, more accurately, emerald. Oz earned a robust $80.3 million from 3,912 theaters in its first three days, which gave the 3-D adventure a tremendous $20,251 per theater average — not to mention bragging rights as the highest debut since The Hobbit‘s $85.8 million bow in December. A solid 53 percent of Oz‘s gross came from 3-D showings, while 10 percent ($8.2 million) came from 307 IMAX screens.

Oz‘s daily grosses suggest it played very well with families. After a $24.1 million Friday, Oz ticked up 37 percent to $33 million on Saturday (for comparison, Disney’s 2010 fairy tale Alice in Wonderland increased 8 percent on its first Saturday), and then held well with $23.1 million on Sunday. Family viewing typically drives ticket sales during early showtimes on Saturdays and Sundays. According to Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution, the film was absolutely a hit with families, but it played across all demographics effectively. He says that 46 percent of Oz‘s audience was under 25, while 54 percent was older. Teens made up 16 percent of the opening weekend crowd. Couples accounted for 43 percent of business, and families accounted for 41 percent. Male/female viewing was fairly evenly split at 48/52 percent. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Oz' conjures $24.1 million on Friday, headed for $80 million weekend

Disney’s $215 million tentpole Oz: The Great and Powerful took off down the yellow brick road on Friday, earning an impressive $24.1 million in its first day. The Sam Raimi-directed film is headed to a huge weekend in the $80 million range, meaning Oz‘s debut will be the strongest opening since The Hobbit’s $85.8 million bow in December. Worldwide, Oz is all but guaranteed to do gangbusters.

Meanwhile, last weekend’s “champ,” Jack the Giant Slayer, tumbled by 67 percent into second place with $2.5 million. The disastrous release, which New Line says cost $185 million (though, industry chatter suggests an even higher budget), may earn about $9 million in its sophomore weekend, giving Jack an anemic $43 million after ten days.

Oz wasn’t the only new release this weekend, but it may as well have been. FilmDistrict’s Dead Man Down, a revenge thriller starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace, was very much dead on arrival. The film earned a puny $1.8 million on its opening day — the same amount Identity Thief grossed on its fifth Friday. Dead will find just over $5 million for the weekend.

Check back tomorrow for the full box office report.

1. Oz: The Great and Powerful – $24.1 million
2. Jack the Giant Slayer – $2.5 million
3. Dead Man Down – $1.8 million
4. Identity Thief – $1.8 million
5. 21 And Over – $1.6 million

For more box office coverage, follow me on Twitter:

RELATED Oz: The Great and Powerful – EW Review

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