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San Andreas to Shake Post Memorial Day Box Office

After a disappointing Memorial Day frame, studios hope to reinvigorate the box office this weekend with two high profile titles. Dwayne Johnson disaster flick San Andreas will open in 3,777 locations while director Cameron Crowe hopes to resuscitate his brand with Aloha at 2,815 locations.

In a sea of sequels and reboots, San Andreas is attempt at an original hit this summer for Warner Bros. With another summer free of titles from their biggest franchises (Harry Potter and the DC Comics films), the company seriously needs all of their smaller titles to perform. On the surface, San Andreas closely resembles past disaster movie hits 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and the high point of the genre, Independence Day. All of those titles were directed by king of disaster films Roland Emmerich and opened to over 50 million, (all over 65 million when adjusting for inflation) and that would be a range that San Andreas would certainly love to end up in.

However, it is unlikely this happens. Since 2012 opened to 65 million in 2009, there is evidence that audiences have cooled to the disaster movie genre, at least for titles without a high level of brand recogonition. Godzilla opened to 93 million last year, but that was due to the recognition of Godzilla as opposed to their desire to see a disaster film. More comparable recent films may be Battle: Los Angeles (35 million in March 2011) and White House Down (24 million in June 2013). Battle:Los Angeles was a big fish in the very small pond of Spring 2011, and White House Down also had director Roland Emmerich. Neither film ended with a total over 100 million, and both were considered disappointments. It also doesn't help that San Andreas, like those films, doesn't have quite as large a scope as the biggest successes (a California earthquake vs. the world ending?)

There may be more working in San Andreas' favor than for either of those films though. San Andreas stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has a very impressive box office track record when it comes to franchise titles, with Furious 7 (348 million), Fast and Furious 6 (239 million), Fast Five (210 million), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (123 million), and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (104 million) are among his many hits. But he has not been as successful in starting franchises of his own. He headlined the disappointments Doom (28 million) and Faster (23 million) in the mid 2000's. Snitch (43 million) and Hercules (73 million) were more successful; both looked like bombs, but managed to outdo expectations OW. This suggests his box office clout may have risen.

San Andreas also has had a very aggressive and arguably successful marketing campaign. The film has not skimped on money shots in its trailers, with the most impressive being an enormous tidal wave that looks to wipe out everything. The use of the familiar song "California Dreamin'" in an oddly dark tone echoes Disney's marketing for Maleficent, whcih used a dark cover of Sleeping Beauty's anthem "Once Upon a Dream" by Lana Del Ray. Plus the use of effective taglines such as "Where Will You Be?" and "Who Will You Be With" has helped the film to feel like more of an event.

Reviews are mixed for the film; it stands at 51% on Rotten Tomatoes; while not a great score, it is above average for the genre, and likely will not have an effect on the film's box office. Fandango is reporting that San Andreas is out selling previous Rock vehicles Hercules and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and is the number 1 film on with 40% of sales (4X what #2 film Pitch Perfect 2 is selling). It also opened with 3.1 million in Thursday Night Previews. With these numbers, a 30 million debut looks very good, while 35 million is likely and 40 million is certainly possible.

Aloha, the new romantic comedy from Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe, which stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams  hopes to counterprogram the mega destruction of San Andreas The film was originally slated for an Oscar friendly release last December, but was moved later to May 2015, likely hoping to replicate the success of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby after realizing the film was not awards material.

Crowe hit it big in 1996 when his film Jerry Maguire became the #1 film of Holiday 1996. Outside of that film, Crowe has not been a reliable box office draw; besides Jerry Maguire, his biggest hits are Vanilla Sky, which disappointed in 2001 when it crawled to 100 million, and We Bought a Zoo, which while very leggy, still only managed 75 million stateside.

Aloha looks unlikely to reverse this trend, despite several big names in the cast. The film's only media blitz was back in December when Sony was hacked; current Sony head Amy Pascal was reported saying the film was terrible. She was not alone in that opinion, as the film sits at an abysmal 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many of the reviews stating how shocking a misfire this was.

The marketing has also not helped; there has not been much agressive marketing, and what trailers there are are fairly absent of shots of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, and focus more on generic looking drama between the leads. Bradley Cooper is front and center; coming off the biggest hits of his career, American Sniper and Guardians of the Galaxy. But outside of those films, he is not yet a proven draw.

Recent female counterprogramming flicks Hot Pursuit, The Age of Adaline and The Longest Ride have all disappointed with less than 14 million in their debuts; with such bad buzz and abysmal reviews, it is possible Aloha goes lower and misses this range. The film rang up $500,000 in Thursday shows, and sits at #3 on with 8% of sales. A debut between 10-15 million looks likely.

Holdovers Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, and Avengers: Age of Ultron should all also gross 10 million this weekend. Here is how the top 5 should pan out.

1. San Andreas- 39 million

2. Tomorrowland- 16 million (-52%)

3. Pitch Perfect 2- 15.7 million (-49%)

4. Mad Max: Fury Road- 14.8 million (-40%)

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron- 12.8 million (-41%)

- Aloha- 11 million

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