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‘Skyscraper’ to Have Shaky Box Office Start for Dwayne Johnson

Johnson’s action thriller needs to hit big overseas

As we move into the second half of the summer, the box office is expected to slow down after the best ever quarter in industry history. That drop starts this weekend, as Universal’s “Skyscraper” and Sony Pictures Animation’s “Hotel Transylvania 3” open against a second-weekend “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

Both films are projected by analysts to open in the $35-40 million range domestically and contend against “Wasp” for the No. 1 spot, with “Hotel Transylvania” opening at 4,200 locations and “Skyscraper” opening on 3,700.

But that won’t be enough for “Skyscraper,” with its reported $120 million budget co-financed by Universal and Chinese-owned Legendary Entertainment. The film is looking for success in China, where Legendary East is distributing, as well as other overseas markets, to recoup its big spend. With the action thriller set in Hong Kong and Dwayne Johnson in the lead role, the pieces are in place for the action thriller to find better box office success in Asia.

While Johnson has had plenty of domestic successes — most recently the $404 million “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” — this film is more likely to perform in North America along the lines of “Baywatch,” a Johnson film that opened to $23 million on Memorial Day weekend last year and had a domestic run of $58 million, relying on a $117 million overseas total to get a lift. But the production budget for that spoof movie, at $69 million, was significantly less than that of “Skyscraper.”

Johnson has appeared in a slew of record-breaking blockbusters, from “Fast & Furious” franchise installments to “Moana.” But the question is: Are those successes due largely to his star power or the respective concepts of the films in which he appears? If “Skyscraper” collapses domestically, the box office power of “The Rock” by name alone falls further into question.

Either way, something tells us Johnson, who will likely to produce another billion-dollar hit next year with the “Fast & Furious” spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw,” isn’t sweating it too hard. He’s set to appear in a whopping nine more films after “Skyscraper,” including the sequel to “Jumanji.”

Meanwhile, $35-40 million opening would be a solid start for “Hotel Transylvania 3,” which has a much cheaper $65 million budget. By comparison, the first “Hotel Transylvania” opened to $42 million in 2012, while the 2015 sequel opened to $48 million, the best opening for an animated Sony release.

It’s a large drop from the rapid-fire hits that came in the first half of the summer, but this was expected. With four-quadrant hits like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Incredibles 2” now in the rear-view mirror, it will likely be several months before movie theaters see another release with a $100 million-plus opening weekend. In fact, the $76 million opening for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” could well be the highest opening for this quarter.

“The third quarter of the year is going to have a lot of films with smaller budgets or aimed for specific audiences,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “The numbers are going to be much smaller, but we’re so ahead of last year’s pace that movie theaters won’t need these films to be big hits, and we might even see a few surprises on the way.”

“Skyscraper” stars Johnson as Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent and amputee who gets a job as head of security for the tallest building in the world. But when terrorists attack the building and frame him for the crime, Sawyer must both clear his name and save his family from danger. Rawson Marshall Thurber wrote and directed the film, which has a 58 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Hotel Transylvania 3” sees Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his family take a break from running the monster getaway spot and head on a cruise vacation. Along the way, Dracula falls in love with the ship’s captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), not knowing she is the great-granddaughter of Dracula’s archrival, Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan).

Genndy Tartakovsky directed the film and co-wrote it with Michael McCullers. The film also stars an ensemble cast featuring  Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, and Mel Brooks, all of whom reprise their roles from the previous films in the series. The film has a 71 percent RT score.