Bucking the trend of blockbusters that go into production in a hurry to meet a release date that's less than a year away-- yes, we're looking at you The Hunger Games-- Sam Raimi is going to have nearly two years to put together Oz: Great And Powerful. Deadline reports that Disney has set the film for a March 8, 2013 release date, a healthy distance away from the planned shooting start date in late July. Raimi will be directing James Franco in the title role, the snake oil salesman who crash lands in the magical land and conspires with one good witch (Michelle Williams) to overthrow her two evil sisters (Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis).

Kunis and Franco are apparently the only actors with actual contracts signed and everything, but I'd be surprised if deals managed to fall apart this late in the game. I like the planned March release date, an almost pre-summer spot that's been given to giant films like 300 and Alice in Wonderland in recent years. It's a plum spot for a big movie that also takes off some of the pressure, unlike, say, the July 4 spot that's always expected to be enormous. Oz: Great and Powerful will be Raimi's return to giant blockbuster filmmaking after the Spider-Man trilogy and the aborted fourth film; much as I liked his smaller effort Drag Me to Hell, I'll be happy to see him back on a bigger scale.

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