The Walt Disney Company (DIS)’s Newest Franchise Feels Familiar, but With a Twist: Time Warner Inc (TWX)

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) is always looking for another top-shelf franchise idea. The House of Mouse may just have found one in a story you probably associate with a totally different studio.

The Wizard of Oz is about as classic as a movie can get. If you’re into spinning Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album instead of the film’s regular soundtrack, you’ll know to start the CD at the MGM lion’s third roar.

Sure, Disney’s movie-themed theme park in Florida used to be called “MGM Studios,” but the Mouse no longer owns the rights to the venerable studio’s name. More to the point, rival studio Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) owns The Wizard of Oz nowadays and will re-release the movie in 3-D this year. The 3-D conversion will first hit theaters and then the DVD and Blu-ray market to commemorate the 1939 film’s upcoming 75th anniversary and Warner Bros.’ 90th.

But The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) takes the next logical step. L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz books have finally entered the public domain, which leaves the door open for anybody to base new material on his world and cast of characters. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) was built on doing exactly that, if you recall foundational masterpieces such as Snow White and Cinderella, and is not shy about trying it again.

Enter Oz the Great and Powerful, which opened Thursday night with some success. And it’s already spawning sequels.

The Wicked Witch of the West looks extra wicked these days. Also slightly greener.

Mickey ears on Dorothy?
The The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) flick collected about $2 billion in Thursday night tickets and midnight screenings. Put that figure next to early takes for other The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) features, and you arrive at a domestic opening weekend between $70 million and $100 million — firmly in blockbuster territory. I would expect the movie to gross about $300 million at home and another $350 million around the world for a total box-office haul of at least $750 million.

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) executives can smell the gold already. The studio ordered up a sequel even before the first tentpole had been raised, according to Variety.

So it looks as if Disney’s take on Oz is here to stay. Early ticket counts already proved that this movie will be nothing like last year’s megaflop John Carter. You won’t see much of that Carter character around Disney’s cruise ships, theme parks, and lunchboxes. The reimagined Wizard is a different story.