Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return got off to a rough start last weekend: The movie collected a mere $3.7 million from 2,575 theaters, the worst opening ever for an animated movie in more than 2,500 theaters. The small opening followed a low-key marketing campaign from Clarius Entertainment – distributing their first feature – and negative reviews from critics. Fortunately for those involved, audiences who did catch Legends Of Oz seemed to enjoy the feature, giving it a CinemaScore of “A.”

Speaking exclusively with AnimatedViews.com, Executive Producer Greg Centineo reflects on what could have been done to boost opening weekend numbers and where the franchise, with its upcoming sequels, now stands.

Animated Views: Let’s start with the positive: Legends Of Oz got a great CinemaScore of “A” from audiences – a much better response than its score at RottenTomatoes.com (13%).

Greg Centineo: That’s ’cause it’s a great movie! The audience likes the movie. I mean, 9 out of 10 people that see the film really like it. They love the new characters and the music. They call it a new, timeless classic. They say it has brilliant animation and the music is not to be missed. It’s a good movie.

AV: By comparison, Neighbors, the movie everyone is talking about at the moment, got a “B.” Why did audiences give Oz an “A” when critics were pretty standoffish against it? What separated these two groups’ opinions to such a degree?

GC: We’re in a big industry right now, and we’re a very small guy. A very small independent. The project is not owned by a studio. It’s owned by individuals. Hundreds of people around the country and the world literally invested in this project. We’re nobodies in this industry. And we stepped into a deep, deep ocean with some very, very big sharks. Some of those mainstream critics have not just trashed the movie, but literally tried to crush it. When you read how belligerent they are against the project – against the film – compared to the audience reviews, it speaks for itself. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out something is wrong there.

AV: Based on last weekend, how much do you estimate Legends Of Oz will make by the end of its box office run?

GC: It had a very low opening weekend, but a lot of films have had a low opening weekend and went on to do pretty robust domestic numbers. We don’t know what the issues are. I’m certain the negativity of the critics really hurt the opening to some extent. Also, it was a Mother’s Day weekend. And, Rio 2 is still out – Rio outperformed us by a little bit. It did about a million dollars better than us.

I think our movie definitely has a chance. If you want me to be frank with you, I think the marketing of the project was anemic. It was done by Clarius – I’m sure you’ve read the article today about them. They have a potential flop with this. They definitely dropped the ball on promoting what seems to be a very loved film by people.

So, now it’s about getting more awareness for the project. We’re doing that through a lot of viral sources and social media. I think the movie had an awareness problem in its opening weekend. We’re almost treating that like a false start or a false opening, in working toward this weekend. Hopefully, we’ll do better this weekend. I believe we can. I believe the movie can increase its box office as word of mouth gets around. As long as that happens, I think we can see this thing be respectable at the box office.

AV: How does last weekend affect plans for more Legends Of Oz movies?

GC: Again, it was weekend #1. But let’s say it doesn’t do great at the box office. That it has a $15 million domestic box office [total] – which I hope it doesn’t – but if it does, it won’t end the franchise. The plan behind this franchise was multiple films. If the first one performed well domestically, you’d have a second release come out three years from now. If it didn’t perform well, you’d do a DVD release for the second and third films. A television series is also in play. [The plan] doesn’t rise and fall on the domestic box office. It will definitely shift the direction of the franchise, but it won’t end the franchise.

AV: You have two sequels and a TV series planned?

GC: Yes. There are 10 books that we own by Roger Baum, the great grandson of L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. He’s a great human being. He’s written these stores. Our goal for the franchise is to bring these stories to life through animation and to continue to tell the stories of Oz.

So many people love The Wizard Of Oz, worldwide. It’s America’s original fairy tale. It’s one of the most-watched movies in the world over the past 75 years. But like many great things in life, eventually they run their course and disappear. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is gone. The Sound Of Music is fading off. The Wizard Of Oz story has been around for 114 years and the movie for 75 years, but eventually generations will lose sight of it.

For us, bringing Oz to a young generation, 5 to 12 years of age, introduces them to the story of Oz through a completely different framework – something they can completely relate to. We’re hoping that as this movie relates to them, we’re also bringing their attention to the original. If we can accomplish just that – gain the interest of this younger generation not only domestically, but globally – The Wizard Of Oz itself, as a classic, can go on another 100 years because we’re bringing it back to the youth.

AV: Last year, Disney released Oz The Great & Powerful, which also received some pretty negative reviews. Do you think Oz films are at a disadvantage because they’re inevitably compared to The Wizard Of Oz, a high standard very few films meet?

GC: You certainly take a really large chance when you step into a space that is very beloved. You try to change something that’s traditional, you’re going to go against some really big forces. I think what people have to realize, from Disney to us, is that we’re not looking to change The Wizard Of Oz. We’re not touching The Wizard Of Oz. I think Disney’s film was fantastic. It received very low scores from critics and audiences. But it made half a billion dollars worldwide at the box office.

If you don’t bring new paradigms to old stories, they die. Just like anything in life, if you don’t change, you die. Mark Twain said the average person dies at 26 but is buried at 62 because they don’t change – they die before they die! Audiences need to understand we’re not touching The Wizard Of Oz. That’s something that historically and traditionally should never be played with or touched. We’re taking a paradigm shift – just like the story of Wicked, which is the prequel to The Wizard Of Oz, and then Oz The Great & Powerful, which is the Wizard’s side of the story – creating new ideas, new understandings, new beliefs, and new philosophies. Our film, which is a sequel to The Wizard Of Oz, really just talks about what happened next or what could have happened next. It just gives you a whole new perspective.

So, there is a chance you take. I think that does play an effect. But I do not think people won’t see our film because of it. Oz The Great & Powerful is proof of that. It got horrendous reviews, but people still went to see it. It did $230-some million domestically. So, I think, in our case, it’s more of an awareness issue. I think if people are aware our movie is out there, they’re going to take their kids to see it.