Box Office Report: Dwayne Johnson Nets Biggest Opening As Action Lead, San Andreas Takes $53 Million To Win Weekend

In 2003’s The Rundown there was a moment where Dwayne Johnson and Arnold Schwarzenegger cross paths and Ah-nuld tells The Rock to “have fun.” It was an inside joke with the Terminator passing the torch to the next great action icon. Only that never quite came to fruition. Johnson has the charisma that few in Hollywood can match, but it hasn’t made him a top draw in terms of getting people to theaters in droves on his name and presence alone. However, he has helped to bolster a number of franchises in supporting roles, including rejuvenating the Fast & Furious series with Fast Five.

Last summer, he starred in Hercules, a film that cost $100 million but only grossed $243 million worldwide. Factor in the cost of advertising and it was a failure. This year his big summer project is San Andreas. But instead of being a Hollywood-ized version of the infamous Grand Theft Auto videogame, it was a Johnson starring in Earthquake the Remake. With George Clooney and Brad Bird crashing and burning with last week’s Tomorrowland, a release that ultimately made Disney cancel Tron 3 because of TL’s performance, the field was wide open to take the top spot.

And that’s just what happened. Dwayne Johnson saw his biggest release as a headline star as San Andreas topped the weekend with $53.2 million. Prior to that opening, Johnson’s biggest non-franchise/spin-off releases have opened in the $22 to $29 million range. Disaster movies seem to be a favorite among audiences going as far back as Irwin Allen’s The Poseidon Adventure (1972) to Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Add Johnson to the mix and you have the makings of a hit. International viewers also like to see the destruction of America in some regard and have responded in kind as San Andreas added another $60 million for the weekend.

Outside of the Earthquake remake the rest of the top ten was ho-hum. Pitch Perfect 2 leaps over last week’s #1, Tommorowland, to take second place. In three weeks of release PP2 has made $147.5 million domestic. Mad Max: Fury Road cuts its attendance by 44.7% in its third weekend of release to finish with $13.8 million. Word of mouth has helped to extend its performance as it easily fended off the only other new release of the weekend, Cameron Crowe’s Aloha, which opened with $10 million. Crowe, who used to be on his game with titles like Say Anything…, Singles and Jerry Maguire, has lost his mojo. His Almost Famous may not have been a success while in theaters, it is widely adored by critics and those who have seen it. After that it has been a mishmash of remakes, memoir adaptations and original works (Vanilla Sky, We Bought a Zoo and Elizabethtown). His latest, long gestating in its development (it was to have occurred back in 2008), wasn’t screened for press in my area of Houston, so its aggregate score of 18% on RT comes as the result of only 110 reviews.

Judging from the trailer, I was unsure of what the film was trying to be. Is it 1) a romantic comedy involving a new relationship, 2) a romantic comedy involving a new relationship and an old flame, 3) a romantic comedy about rekindling a relationship with an old flame, 4) all of the above? You would think there would be more people who would want to see Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams, and Bill Murray in a movie together.

The best story of the top ten is how well Fox Searchlight’s Far from the Madding Crowd is performing. Five weeks into its release it has slowly crept into the top ten discussion. Last week it finished in seventh. This week it dropped a spot to eighth and has the second-best retainer of attendance, only suffering a 37.9% drop as it finished with $1.42 million. So far it has made $8.3 million US.

On tap for the weekend the boys of Entourage will be taking on Melissa McCarthy’s Spy. Look for Spy to get the upper hand. But watch out for Insidious: Chapter 3. If Poltergeist can make $22.6 million on 3200 screens for its opening weekend, surely the third installment of the Insidious franchise can make at least $17 million on 3000 screens.

Full top ten below.

01. San Andreas – $53.2 Million
02. Pitch Perfect – $14.38 Million ($147.5 Million)
03. Tomorrowland – $13.8 Million ($63.18 Million)
04. Mad Max: Fury Road – $13.6 Million ($115.9 Million)
05. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $10.9 Million ($427 Million)
06. Aloha – $10 Million
07. Poltergeist – $7.8 Million ($38.2 Million)
08. Far from the Madding Crowd – $1.42 Million ($8.3 Million)
09. Hot Pursuit – $1.37 Million ($32.3 Million)
10. Home – $1.1 Million ($170.4 Million)

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