Box office: 'San Andreas' eyes seismic $48M debut; 'Aloha' bombing

Pamela McClintock
San Andreas Review: An Epic Disaster Movie With Heart
San Andreas Review: An Epic Disaster Movie With Heart

Who doesn't love a good disaster movie -; especially when it stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson?

New Line and Warner Bros.' San Andreas rocked the Friday box office with $18.2 million, putting it course for a weekend debut as high as $48 million.

The earthquake disaster film, which harkens back to the old Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the '70s, will easily claim the top spot in North America this weekend and will mark Johnson's top domestic opening outside of the Fast and Furious franchise. In 2013, G.I. Joe: Retaliation debuted to $40.5 million.

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Cameron Crowe's romantic drama Aloha, the weekend's other new offering, isn't looking so lucky despite its star-studded cast (Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams). The Sony film is pacing to open in the $10 million-$11 million range, the lowest opening of summer to date for a major studio release. That puts it in a close battle with Avengers: Age of Ultron for fifth place.

Read More'San Andreas': What the Critics Are Saying

Aloha, is the first of Crowe's films to be released in summer, when the pressure is much more intense to open to big numbers.

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. Warners and Village Roadshow co-financed and co-produced the $110 million production from Warners' New Line unit.

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. Lost's Carlton Cuse penned the screenplay from a story by Andre Fabrizio and Jerry Passmore. Also appearing in the film are Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti..

Read MoreBox-Office Preview: Dwayne Johnson's 'San Andreas' Ready to Rumble In the Top Spot

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 film is drawing dismal reviews from critics, which will likely hurt word of mouth. However, Sony remains hopeful that Aloha will serve as counterprogramming for adults looking for an original storyline.

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. 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.

Sony's exposure on the film is minimized by having several partners, including New Regency, LStar Capital and RatPac Entertainment. Fox is handling the film internationally but doesn't have a financial stake.