Box-Office Preview: Dwayne Johnson's 'San Andreas' Ready to Rumble In the Top Spot

'San Andreas'

Cameron Crowe's 'Aloha,' starring Bradley Cooper, is looking at a modest opening as it presents itself as an alternative to the summer mayhem.

Coming in the wake of a downbeat Memorial Day weekend at the box office, Warners' disaster pic San Andreas is looking to send a few jolts through the multiplex as it eyes an opening at around $40 million or more.

In contrast, Sony's romantic triangle Aloha, the weekend's other new wide opener, is hoping to establish a foothold in the marketplace so that it can settle in for a lengthy run. While some analysts are betting the movie could open in $12-15 million territory, more cautious prognosticators are pegging it for an $8-10 million opening.

With Disney's Tomorrowland, which opened to an underwhelming three-day figure of $33 million last weekend, expected to downshift into second place, the road is open for San Andreas, which harkens back to the old Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the '70s, to easily claim the top spot. Starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a helicopter pilot called upon to execute multiple knick-of-time rescues, the PG-13 movie will bow in 3,777 theaters, the majority of them 3D houses. Warners and Village Roadshow co-financed and co-produced the $110 million production, from Warners' New Line unit.

San Andreas teams Johnson with director Brad Peyton, who also guided the actor through 2012's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and producer Beau Flynn, who produced both Journey 2 and Johnson's 2014 Hercules. Lost's Carlton Cuse penned the screenplay, from a story by Andre Fabrizio and Jerry Passmore. Also appearing in the film are Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti.

Johnson is coming off Furious 7, about to hit the $1.5 billion mark worldwide, in which he was part of a pumped-up ensemble. San Andreas will be a test of his current muscle as a leading man, who's shouldering the entire picture himself. His recent outings, like Journey 2 and Hercules, opened to $27.3 million and $29.8 million, respectively, so the action star looks to top those numbers.

Competing with third weekend holdovers like Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road, Aloha, the latest from writer-director Cameron Crowe (whose credits range from Jerry Maguire to We Bought a Zoo), is positioning itself as character-driven counterprogramming amid the bigger summer spectacles. The Hawaii-set, PG-13 movie stars Bradley Cooper as a military contractor who falls for an Air Force pilot played by Emma Stone, only to encounter a past lover in the form of Rachel McAdams.

Produced by Crowe and Scott Rudin, the movie — which at one point was penciled in for a December 2014 release but was then moved into 2015 — cost about $37 million. It's already had to withstand critical comments from former Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal, which were exposed as part of the Sony hack. But Sony's exposure on the film is limited since it partnered with Fox (which will release it internationally), New Regency, LStar Capital and RatPac Entertainment. Opening in around 2,800 locations, the movie is not expected to set off fireworks with its debut, but the studio is crossing its fingers that it will show some staying power in the marketplace as Crowe's films have often done in the past.