Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful may not have been expected to equal the $1 billion that Disney's Alice In Wonderland earned in 2010, but at a cost of $215 million to produce and around $100 million in marketing costs, it has to make around $700 million just to break even, a total that it may not cross at this point. And there were any number of would-be blockbusters last year that basically *had* to make nearly $1 billion to break even. Some of them pulled it off (The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), some of them scratched out that $600 million they needed to save face (Men In Black 3), while others crashed and burned (Battleship and John Carter). Many of the bigger budgeted films are surefire smash hit sequels and films like Fast & Furious 6 or Iron Man 3 are relatively safe bets despite their $200 million budgets. But mega-budgeted films like The Lone Ranger are basically banking on playing like proverbial sequels. If Disney could call the Gore Verbinski-helmed, Johnny Depp-starring western Pirates of the Caribbean 5: The Lone Ranger, they certainly would.
Even as some sense of fiscal sanity has returned to Hollywood over the last few years in terms of reasonably budgeted adult genre fare (think the $45 million spent on Argo or $13 million spent on The Call), spending on too many of the would-be tent poles presumes not just blockbuster status but near record box office triumphs. Not every film can go the distance and up until recently only a few did. But as what constitutes a smash hit climbed higher and higher (back in "my day", a film could open to $15 million and slowly crawl to $100 million and be massively profitable), the once fabled $1 billion global gross is now in danger of becoming commonplace to the point where it's all-but expected for the biggest films of a given year. That's a dangerous precedent, especially as overseas audiences will eventually grow tired of 3D just as domestic audiences have mostly stopped caring about it (most such blockbusters sell more domestic 2D tickets than 3D these days).
One or more of the 2013 releases discussed above may in fact break out accordingly. Or maybe none of them will, and that's okay. Hollywood can't keep budgeting would-be tent poles so that each one has to be not just a hit but a global blockbuster. While I do not wish box office failure on anything coming out this year, I do think it would be a little healthy for the industry to not have a $1 billion earner this year. For those with $1 billion-blockbuster withdrawal, you can hold out until 2015 at the latest. I'm pretty sure The Avengers 2 and Star Wars: Episode VII are locks at this point.