With 'Rampage,' Dwayne Johnson Shows International Appeal
By Erich Schwartzel
LOS ANGELES -- Dwayne Johnson's "Rampage" this weekend became the latest big-budget Hollywood offering to underperform in the U.S. but make up lost ground in overseas markets like China.
"Rampage," a videogame adaptation starring the former wrestler alongside a giant, computer-generated gorilla, collected a so-so $34.5 million domestically on its opening weekend but a robust $114.1 million internationally. Those preliminary box-office estimates were released by the studio behind the film, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros.
"Rampage" barely beat the hit horror film "A Quiet Place," for the top spot on the box-office chart. "A Quiet Place," about a family that must be completely silent or risk alerting monsters, has grossed $99.6 million in two weeks, making it a bona fide hit for Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures.
The week's other new major release, the micobudget teen horror movie "Truth or Dare," grossed a healthy $19.1 million for Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures.
With a production budget of $120 million, "Rampage" will need to continue to pull in overseas audiences to make a profit. Its top-performing country this weekend was China with $55 million, but studios only receive about 25% of grosses there, compared with a more even split in the U.S.
The performance of "Rampage" mirrors a Hollywood increasingly dependent on international audiences. Last year, overseas box office results rose 7% but domestically fell 2%, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
Since leaving the wrestling ring as his persona known as "The Rock," Mr. Johnson has become a global movie star in an industry that sees one-time stars like Tom Cruise fading. Mr. Johnson's last movie, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," recently became the top-grossing movie of all time for its studio, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment.
In Warner Bros.' favor: Mr. Johnson's ability to move the box-office needle through his own promotion. The actor's pull among his 12.8 million Twitter followers has even been written into his contract. A term sheet for a coming film of Mr. Johnson's revealed he was slated to receive a $1 million bonus for "social media support."
That effect was on display this weekend, when disappointing turnout at Friday matinees of "Rampage" depressed projections for the weekend, said Jeff Goldstein, Warner's president of domestic distribution. Then Mr. Johnson started tweeting -- at one point sending 23 messages in 24 hours, including video of himself driving to a Los Angeles theater and surprising an audience seeing the film.
"He really piled it on on Saturday and you saw it [in ticket sales]," said Mr. Goldstein.
Social-media metrics that predict ticket sales rose, said Mr. Goldstein, and Saturday grosses increased 20%, an unusually high uptick.
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