'San Andreas' rocks box office with $53 million-sized tremor

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's 'San Andreas' Hits Hollywood

The 3D earthquake epic "San Andreas" rumbled to a $53.2 million debut at the box office this weekend, knocking Disney's "Tomorrowland" out of the top spot and making a strong case for Dwayne "The Rock' Johnson as today's preeminent action star.

The big opening by Warner Bros.' "San Andreas" was more than $10 million over analysts' projections and the biggest-ever for The Rock in a lead role. It blew away the competition, including the weekend's only other wide opener, the romantic comedy "Aloha" starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, which debuted to $10 million for Sony.

"Pitch Perfect 2" was a distant second with $14.8 million, and the musical comedy lifted its global box office haul to $228 million for Universal — not bad for a movie that cost $29 million. Last weekend's No. 1 movie "Tomorrowland" followed with $13.8 million but the pricey Brad Bird-directed sci-fi saga starring George Clooney is at $63 million domestically after two weeks.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
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'San Andreas' rocks box office with $53 million-sized tremor
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 14: Actor Dwayne Johnson of MOANA took part today in 'Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films' presentation at Disney's D23 EXPO 2015 in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 26: Actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson arrives at the Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'San Andreas' at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 26, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 06: Actor Dwayne Johnson accepts the Troops' Choice award onstage during Spike TV's Guys Choice 2015 at Sony Pictures Studios on June 6, 2015 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Spike TV)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Dwayne Johnson, aka 'The Rock', is seen after a work-out at World Gym, Ashmore on April 14, 2014 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Richard Gosling/Newspix/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 21: Actor Dwayne Johnson attends the press conference of Paramount Pictures 'HERCULES' at Hotel Adlon on August 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 24: Actor/wrestler Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson attends the 'Hercules' panel at the Paramount Studios Presentation - Comic-Con International on Day 1 held at San Diego Convention Center on July 24, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 23: Actor Dwayne Johnson arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere of 'Hercules' at TCL Chinese Theatre on July 23, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0091 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Dwayne Johnson and host Jimmy Fallon during the 'Pomanti Brothers Fitness Video' skit on July 22, 2014 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Actor Dwayne Johnson visits 106 & Park at BET studio on July 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 17: Dwayne Johnson speaks onstage during the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2014 held at Pauley Pavilion on July 17, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 02: Dwayne Johnson attends a photocall for 'Hercules' at Trafalgar Square on July 2, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 13: Dwayne Johnson at the 'Pain & Gain' Press Conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April 13, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 11: Dwayne Johnson attends the press conference of the Miami Premiere of 'Pain & Gain' at Mandarin Oriental on April 11, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Paramount)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - APRIL 1: Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson looks on during his match against John Cena during WrestleMania XXVIII at Sun Life Stadium on April 1, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson during WrestleMania XXVII at Georgia Dome on April 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson during Wrestle Mania XX at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
403707 06: Professional wrestler Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson poses at the unveiling of his wax portrait at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum April 10, 2002 in New York City. The museum creates life-size, three-dimensional wax sculptures of celebrities and historical figures around the world. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 17 -- Air Date 04/13/2002 -- Pictured: (l-r) Seth Meyers as Jeremy, Maya Rudolph as The Scorpion Queen and Dwayne Johnson as The Scorpion King during 'The Scorpion Prince' skit on April 13, 2002 (Photo by Norman Ng/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
395220 10: Actor Dwayne Johnson, aka 'The Rock', walks onstage to promote a special DVD and home video release of the movie 'The Mummy Returns' October 3, 2001 in Santa Monica, CA. (Photo by Jason Kirk/Getty Images)
OCTOBER 22: Defensive end Dwayne Johnson #94 of the University of Miami Hurricanes walks on the field during the NCAA game against the University of Virginia on October 22, 1994. Dwayne Johnson is also known as 'The Rock' of World Wrestling Federation. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Dwayne Johnson, aka 'The Rock', is seen after a work-out at World Gym, Ashmore on April 14, 2014 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Richard Gosling/Newspix/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 17: Actor Dwayne Johnson speaks onstage during Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2014 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 17, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WWE Superstar and actor, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson speaks to the media before Wrestlemania 28 in Miami, FL.

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"Mad Max: Fury Road" was just behind that with $13.4 million, and the R-rated road rage romp starring Tom Hardy is up to $115 million in two weeks for Warner Bros. Disney's blockbuster Marvel superhero seuel "Avengers: The Age of Ultron" lifted its domestic total past $425 million and took fifth place with $11 million.

Writer-director Cameron Crowe's "Aloha" came in with $10 million, in line with modest expectations for the film from the director of "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous," but less than its starry cast that included Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel might suggest.

Fox's "Poltergeist" was seventh with $7.8 million in its second week. That's a steep 66 percent tumble from its debut, but that's not unusual a horror movie, even sequels that come 33 years after the original like this one. Its domestic haul is $34 million.

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Is there a bigger action star than the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Johnson, a former pro wrestling star? Literally, probably not, and it may be true figuratively, too.

"Before this weekend he was an undisputed giant at the box office," said Rentrak media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, "and, as self-proclaimed 'franchise Viagra,' he has proven to be peerless in adding his considerable box office muscle to such franchises as 'G.I. Joe,' 'Fast and Furious,' 'The Mummy' and 'Journey to the Center of the Earth.'

"Now he proves he can open a movie to stellar results based on his name alone and that will be money in the bank for the star himself and the studios that will rush to work with him going forward," he added.

Also Read: 'San Andreas' Reviews: The Rock's Earthquake Movie on Shaky Ground With Critics

There's no denying The Rock is on as roll. He was part of the cars-and-criminals crew that drove Universal's "Furious 7" to a huge $1.4 billion earlier this year, making it the third-highest grossing movie ever globally. And the impressive "San Andreas" opening comes just weeks before his HBO TV series "Ballers" debuts.

He did two things with "San Andreas" that the best action stars must do to break out at the box office: overcome so-so reviews and attract a broad swath of moviegoers. The audience for the earthquake saga was more female than male, albeit just barely at 51 percent. And it gave the movie an "A-" CinemaScore, despite middling reviews from critics that have it at 49 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

"No doubt about it, he's the man," Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution at Warner Bros., told TheWrap. The fact that Johnson is shooting his next film, "Central Intelligence," for the studio might have something to do with that.

Also Read: Dwayne Johnson Rocks 'San Andreas' Premiere (Photos)

"He's real deal and he works so hard," he said. "He took two weeks off shooting 'Central Intelligence' to promote 'San Andreas,' then left the premiere at 11 p.m. to fly to China and now's back and will be on the set Monday." He wouldn't way if a sequel was in the works. Fellman would't say if sequel is planned.

The special effects-laden "San Andreas" didn't come cheaply, with a production budget of $110 million. But it benefited greatly from the upcharges tied to giant screen and 3D showings. A whopping 44 percent of its weekend haul came from 3D, of which RealD accounted for $19.1 million.

The third teaming of Johnson and producer Beau Flynn was charmed indeed, and the debut of the Brad Peyton-directed "San Andreas" was nearly as big as that of their "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" ($27 million) — also directed by Peyton — and last summer's "Hercules"($29 million) combined.

Any studio concerns that quake jitters might keep crowds away were allayed, and in fact 19 of the top 20 locations for "San Andreas" were on the West Coast.

"I guess they wanted to see if Burbank (where Warner Bros. is based) gets washed into the sea," Fellman said.

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