‘Rampage’ is poised for top box-office spot as Dwayne Johnson fights video game movie curse

To say movies inspired by video games tend to struggle at the box office is a colossal understatement. Yet, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s new computer effects-laden action film “Rampage” — loosely based on the arcade game about city-smashing monsters — has a not-so secret weapon: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The film will serve as the latest test of Johnson’s global appeal with moviegoers, coming on the heels of Sony Pictures’ surprise smash “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” That blockbuster, released in December, grossed more than $950 million worldwide, including $403 million domestically.

“Rampage,” which cost roughly $120 million to produce after tax credits, is expected to open with $35 million to $40 million Thursday night through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. That would be lower than the debut of Johnson and Warner Bros.’ 2015 success “San Andreas,” which opened with $54 million on its way to $474 million worldwide.

Can’t stop the Rock?

“San Andreas” director Brad Peyton returned to helm “Rampage,” this time featuring the reliably bankable Johnson as a primatologist whose intelligent ape friend, George, is transformed into a fearsome monster by an experiment gone awry.

An opening of $35 million or more for “Rampage” will most likely be enough to unseat Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place” as the No. 1 movie in the U.S. and Canada, after the horror film surprised at multiplexes with a $50-million debut.

“A Quiet Place,” a $17-million thriller with very little dialogue and directed by John Krasinski, benefited from overwhelmingly positive reviews, fervent buzz from the South by Southwest Film Festival and a unique concept.

Reviews for “Rampage” have not been published as of this writing.

“Rampage” will have to generate big business overseas to be considered a success. This week, it opens in countries including China, the world’s second-largest movie market, along with Brazil, Britain and Russia.

Video game movies have a spotty track record among North American audiences, as evidenced by recent efforts such as “Tomb Raider” and “Assassin’s Creed.” “Rampage” comes to theaters nearly nine years after Warner Bros. acquired the game as part of its $33-million purchase of bankrupt publisher Midway Games in 2009.

Dangerous game

Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures will try to attract audiences with a big-screen version of a very different kind of game (we’re talking about the sleepover variety). “Truth or Dare,” a supernatural horror film in which an innocent party game turns sinister, is expected to launch with $12 million to $15 million, which would be a solid result for a low-budget movie.

The “The Truth or Dare” marketing campaign has focused on drawing the younger female demographic by leveraging the social media presence of its star Lucy Hale (formerly of “Pretty Little Liars”) and airing ads during shows such as “Riverdale” and “The Voice.”

At the same time, Wes Anderson’s acclaimed-yet-controversial stop-motion animated film “Isle of Dogs” will expand to about 1,925 domestic theaters after a solid run in limited release. The quirky writer-director’s latest offering has collected $12 million so far from about 550 theaters. The movie has generated strong interest among cinephiles for its visuals and wit, but has also been criticized for its depiction of Japan and Japanese culture.

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