UK Box Office

Pitch Perfect 2’s top spot crumbles as The Rock’s earthquake thriller shakes up the UK box office chart.

Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino in San Andreas Photograph: Jaimie Trueblood/AP

Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino in San Andreas Photograph: Jaimie Trueblood/AP

When Hercules debuted last year with a mild £1.45m, it was easy to question the box-office prowess of its star, Dwayne Johnson. Had the Rock got it what it takes to open a movie in the UK to blockbuster numbers? Now, with San Andreas, the answer appears to be yes: it debuted with a muscular £3.89m, plus £740,000 in previews. That’s the best start for a Johnson movie outside the Fast & Furiousfranchise, unless you count The Mummy Returns, where the actor had scant screen time.

The good news for Johnson is that the success is not reliant on the actor boarding an existing franchise – unlike notable past hits such as Mummy spinoff The Scorpion King, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, GI Joe: Retaliation and the Fast & Furious titles. On the other hand, the $110m-budget San Andreas is hardly reliant on Johnson for its primary appeal: the epic disaster sequences include an earthquake that lays waste to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The success of San Andreas seems to confirm that the combination of Johnson with appropriate material – providing blockbuster spectacle commensurate with his own outsize frame – is a commercial winner with audiences. Expect more of the same.

Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road were neck-and-neck the previous weekend, with the two films grossing near identical amounts, and almost tied for cumulative box-office. But the half-term school holiday was kind to the Barden Bellas, as they pull convincingly ahead of the post-apocalyptic road warriors.

Pitch Perfect 2 posted a robust £1.87m for the weekend session (compared with £1.75m for Fury Road), but more impressive is its performance across the week. The past seven days saw its cumulative total rise by a spiffy £4.76m, bringing the 17-day tally to £14.53m. That’s more than double the gross of the original Pitch Perfect (£6.49m). With the rest of the top five (San Andreas, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland: A World Beyond and Avengers: Age of Ultron) all driven by big-budget action, Pitch Perfect 2 is offering the date-movie market a clear alternative.

Is there a viable audience for a British romcom? Given uncertain international appeal, films need to stay within modest budget limits and perform strongly on home turf, making the genre a challenge for UK producers, financiers and distributors. In 2013, I Give It a Year, starring Rafe Spall and Anna Faris, posted a decent £6.22m. A year later, Cuban Fury, with Nick Frost and Rashida Jones, crossed the finish line with a less impressive £2.46m. Now it’s the turn of Man Up, starring Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. The film has opened with £529,000 from 357 cinemas, yielding a site average of £1,481. That compares with Cuban Fury’s debut of £966,000 from 361 cinemas, and I Give It a Year’s £1.45m from 396 venues.

In the past, Pegg enjoyed major box-office success in romantic comedic roles, powering Run Fatboy Run to £11.02m and romzomcom Shaun of the Dead to £6.69m. While his international star power has increased with the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises, Pegg’s enduring appeal as a romantic leading man isn’t so certain.

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