Sometimes it does not have to make sense in order for a release to make money. Sometimes you just need a granite-labeled hero carved from stone.
Coming into the April 13 weekend the prospects for the new Warner Brothers/New Line movie “Rampage” were being scaled down. Initially expected to come in second place behind “A Quiet Place” and draw in the low $30 million range for the weekend, once the Friday ticket sale numbers were reported it was estimated the film would end up lower, closer to the $28 million mark.
Then Saturday the crowds began to turn out and the totals surged, and it was determined the film would become #1 for the weekend. The final take, revised upward a second time on Sunday, would be over $35 million.
Internationally the movie was a hit as well; “Rampage” was globally healthy with a total global box office debut of $150 million. So what happened that this goofy movie (covered at length in this week’s podcast) about giant beasts tearing up Chicago would become this kind of a popular romp?
Basically, The Rock happened.
Having proven to be adept at action, comedy, and capable enough with drama, Johnson excels in films where all those traits are involved. (His more straightforward action thrillers, such as “Faster”, and “Snitch” were not as warmly received.) Turns in the “Fast & The Furious” franchise have established his name globally, and at home he brings value as a performer drawing multiple demographics.
Johnson’s appeal touches multiple categories and studios have recognized this sales potential. He is a demographics dream. His mixed lineage (from a black Nova Scotian father and his mother of Samoa) means he is a natural cross-cultural celebrity, something proven out by the internal numbers from “Rampage”.
Studios begin marketing analysis with the basic categories — Men, Women, Under-25, and Over-25. These comprise The 4 Quadrants, and a film’s success hinges on how it performs in each segment. For “Rampage”, a plot-thin CGI action piece, most of the appeal would rest with young males. Exit surveys found a surprising 30% of the audience was Women Over-25, the second highest percentaage. That is strictly due to The Rock being in the lead.
The other reason for the film succeeding as it did was Johnson hits double digits in all the primary ethnic groups. Ticket buyers this weekend were: Caucasian 43% / Hispanic 21% / African American 19% / Asian 14%. That is the kind of cross-category draw studios salivate over, and it translates well in international markets. In China Johnson has become a huge star and he pulled “Rampage” to a $55 million opening on the Mainland.
His previous release was “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle”, which has become Sony Entertainment’s highest grossing film, ever. (That includes all of Sony’s “Spider-Man” titles.) Globally “Jumanji” was just shy of grossing $1 billion. His previous work with “Rampage” director Brad Peyton was “San Andreas”, earning a strong $155 million stateside, and $474 million globally.
Coming later for the actor this summer is “Skyscraper”, appearing like “Die Hard with The Rock”. As a direct nod to Johnson’s draw in the Orient while the production was filmed in Vancouver the story line is set in Hong Kong. This should ensure that Universal has a safe return on its investment.
Considering that Dwayne Johnson was able to elevate a film about mutant monsters tearing up Chicago — that was based on a video game as it tosses science over the railing — and bring it to a winning return means I would not bet against him.