Oz the Great and Powerful's quasi-prequel status and questionable trailers had us wondering if Disney's attempt to repeat Alice in Wonderland's tentpole $ucce$$ would pan out or fizzle. However, we can now safely claim that Sam Raimi's Oz flick isn't the next John Carter (re: a $200 million + investment that fails to jump-start a new franchise), following an $80 million opening weekend in the U.S. and $150 million debut haul worldwide.
With no significant competition arriving over the next two weeks and solid word-of-mouth (read our review), Oz the Great and Powerful shouldn't have much trouble becoming a profitable venture for the Mouse House (passing over additional tie-in merchandise sales, that is). Hence, it's reasonable to assume that the developing followup will make its way beyond the writing stage of development.
Oz costars Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams are playing coy about the prospect of a sequel, but Mila Kunis has already informed E! Online that "We're all signed on for sequels." The film's story engineer and co-screenwriter Mitchell Kapner has free reign to draw from L. Frank Baum's Oz literature for the sequel, but cannot use elements unique to MGM's iconic musical The Wizard of Oz. So, for example: if Dorothy Gale shows up, she could end up wearing the silver shoes from Baum's source novel (but not the famous ruby pair from the 1939 movie).
It appears that Kapner is working alone on the sequel script, as Oz co-writer David Lindsay-Abaire is busy writing the Poltergeist remake (which Raimi is producing). Abaire is the award-winning playwright and screenwriter who revised Kapner's Oz the Great and Powerful script after Raimi committed to directing - so, is Kapner's final sequel draft going to receive a similar rewrite treatment from Abaire at a later time? Well, that doesn't appear to be the plan (see below).
Disney has Alice in Wonderland screenwriter Linda Woolverton working on the sequel script, but there's no word yet on whether or not Tim Burton is returning as director. Similarly, the studio has Kapner penning the next Oz installment and the cast lined up, but Raimi has informed Bleeding Cool that he's not committed to anything yet:
"I haven’t planned on directing the sequel. I did leave some loose ends for another director if they want to make the picture... I was attracted to [the 'Oz the Great and Powerful' story] but I don’t think the second one would have the thing I would need to get me interested."
There's a good chance Raimi will shift his attention away from the Oz franchise and instead work on a smaller project (maybe an Army of Darkness sequel), much like back when he made Drag Me to Hell after directing three Spider-Man flicks in a row. Personally, I'm wary of an Oz followup that does not involve either Abaire as co-writer or Raimi directing, and Disney likewise has motivation for tempting Raimi back (since he's comfortable working on $200 million films by now). We shall see if he's willing to change his mind, of course...
Oz the Great and Powerful is playing in theaters. For an in-depth discussion of the film, check back later today for the new SR Underground Podcast episode.