Johnson, ‘San Andreas’ rock the box office

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘San Andreas’ delivers powerful punch at the box office.

Dwayne Johnson’s “San Andreas” has delivered a dominating $53.2 million opening weekend at 3,777 U.S. locations, soaring past recent forecasts of a $40 million launch for Warner Bros.’ 3D disaster pic. “San Andreas” took in about five times as much as the opening of Sony’s romantic-comedy “Aloha,” which arrived amid extensive negative buzz — despite the star power of Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. “San Andreas” underlines Johnson’s drawing power in the wake of being a key component of Universal’s “Furious 7″ and its $1.5 billion worldwide gross.New Line and Warner Bros.’ San Andreas rocked the North American box office this weekend with a better-than-expected $53.2 million after earning an A- CinemaScore from audiences happy to be jolted again and again. (In real life, a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake hundreds of miles off the coast of Japan Saturday evening was felt in much of the country.) The movie, which harkens back to the old Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the ’70s, easily claimed the top spot — as well as delivering Johnson his top domestic opening outside of the Fast and Furious franchise, and his highest ever for a title in which he is the solo lead.

San Andreas had what could only be described as a faultless victory, as the Dwayne Johnson earthquake adventure scored a whopping $53.215 million debut weekend, well above the tracking and well above even optimistic predictions going into the weekend. He’s been front and center in the promotion for “San Andreas” as a heroic helicopter pilot seeking to rescue his daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario, amid the rubble of a mega-quake. That includes a $3.1m Thursday bow, giving the film a solid 5% Thursday-to-weekend figure, and the picture went from $18.2m on Friday to around $20.5m on Saturday. Village Roadshow Pictures co-financed and co-produced “San Andreas” with Warners for $110 million, with most of the film lensing in Australia to take advantage of government incentives.

The movie tells the story of Ray Gaines (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), an Afghanistan war veteran and a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter pilot. The disaster film teams Johnson with director Brad Peyton, who also guided the actor through 2012’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and producer Beau Flynn, who produced both Journey 2 and Johnson’s 2014 Hercules. This was clearly a winning combo of star+concept, as audiences flocked to see The Rock save his family (and only his family) from a massive California-destroying earthquake.

In the film, Gaines takes the blame for the death of his daughter Mallory, something that eventually drives wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), to ask for a divorce and to go into the arms of property mogul Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd). The Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/Time Warner Entertainment release was produced by New Line, Village Roadshow, and Rat Pac at a cost of $100 million to produce.

Ray and Emma also have another daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), whose main function is apparently to serve as eye candy, by, for example, calling her dad from Daniel’s pool while clad only in a bikini. In San Andreas, Johnson plays a helicopter pilot called upon to execute multiple nick-of-time rescues in the PG-13 movie that will be playing in 3,777 theaters by Friday, the majority of them 3-D houses. To wit, the film’s opening weekend will likely match or exceed the entire $47.6m domestic total for last year’s “found footage” tornado film Into the Storm, which was also a New Line release. While Blake lives the high life courtesy of mom’s richy-rich boyfriend, poor Ray is left mundane chores, such as delivering a bicycle to her new home or saving her from a tsunami-hit skyscraper later on.

Seismologists Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) and Kim (Will Yun Lee) at the California Institute of Technology decide to test their new earthquake-detection gizmo in safe and controlled circumstances. The destruction of one of the Modern Wonders of the World serves as an introduction to what a disaster movie with an almost unlimited effects budget can offer.

From Sony, the Hawaii-set Aloha stars Cooper as a military contractor who falls for an Air Force pilot played by Stone, only to encounter a past lover in the form of McAdams. The work of cinematographer Steve Yedlin, who is also attached to the next Star Wars installment, is done on a massive scale, offering a detailed and realistic depiction of the dam crumbling and the ensuing floods. Lawrence mumbles some technobabble about upcoming greater earthquakes from Los Angeles to San Francisco and this is when the dysfunctional Gaines family become the center of the universe amid the deaths of millions.

After Rick has to cancel a trip to take Blake back to her university in San Francisco due to the earthquake, she has no problems with going with Daniel on his private jet. Produced by Crowe and Scott Rudin, Aloha — which at one point was penciled in for a December 2014 release but was then moved into 2015 — cost at least $37 million after rebates. The Rock sold the living heck out of this thing, as he does for anything he is involved in, and the marketing sold what needed to be sold (The Rock being heroic, buildings a-tumbling-down, etc.) without fail.

It has already had to withstand critical comments from former Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal, which were exposed in emails made public as part of the Sony hack. The previous biggest opening day for a “by myself” movie star vehicle for The Rock is the $36 million weekend of The Scorpion King way back in 2002.

In one particularly offensive scene, Blake, Ben and Ollie stroll through San Francisco talking about the tourism objects there right after seeing thousands of buildings collapse before their eyes. Overseas, the box-office sensation took in another $10.4 million from 46 markets for an international cume of $80.7 million to jump the $200 million mark worldwide with $228.2 million through Sunday. Or perhaps this will start another wave of big-budget disaster movies, just as Twister and Independence Day brought us the likes of Dante’s Peak, The Core, Poseidon, and 2012. “That’s great news,” says my wife, who is a certified disaster porn junkie and loved every “Rock goes A.W.O.L. in an emergency and saves no one” minute of San Andreas. Rounding out the top five in its fifth weekend was Disney and Marvel Studios’ blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, which took in $10.9 million domestically and another $17.6 million internationally for a world total of $1.32 billion, including $225.5 million in China. The film was victimized by being explicitly criticized by Amy Pascal in documents stolen in the Sony leak last year, and the studio clearly lacked faith in the picture by hiding it from most critics until the last minute and then holding the reviews offline until hours before the film’s domestic debut.

It wasn’t just that the vast majority were negative, but rather they were brutal putdowns from critics who considered themselves fans of the writer/director. Also, 20th Century Fox is handling the overseas distribution, and they have a track record of turning lemons into lemonade abroad (go look up the foreign grosses for The Counselor).

The bad news is that this was a pure star power test for Bradley Cooper, as the film’s confusing and unfocused trailer (truth in advertising!) left little else to offer besides pretty movie stars in lovely places being charming. I disliked the obviously butchered-in-post-production film without outright hating it, and I have to wonder if the reviews were harsher because of how much we all love Cameron Crowe. Truth be told, Cameron Crowe isn’t necessarily a hit machine, as really only Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky qualify as blockbusters and We Bought A Zoo needed (and got) December legs to get to a robust $75m domestic back in 2011.

Nonetheless, it is possible that this rare big studio multiplex-friendly star-driven romantic comedy for adults in the middle of summer will have legs due to its relative uniqueness, but that’s a bet I’m not willing to take at the moment.

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