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Dwayne Johnson's 'Skyscraper' could face a tough climb at the domestic box office

Dwayne Johnson's 'Skyscraper' could face a tough climb at the domestic box office
Neve Campbell and Dwayne Johnson in Legendary Entertainment and Universal Pictures' "Skyscraper." (Universal Pictures)

Legendary Entertainment and Universal Pictures’ new Dwayne Johnson action movie “Skyscraper” may take inspiration from highflying thrillers such as “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno.” But it’s not expected to soar to vertigo-inducing heights at the box office, at least not in the United States and Canada.

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“Skyscraper,” which cost an estimated $125 million to produce, is expected to gross $30 million to $35 million domestically Friday through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. That should put the film in a close race with the latest movie from Sony Pictures’ animated “Hotel Transylvania” series.

The Rock’s newest big-budget effort and the spooky cartoon comedy will enter a three-way race for first place with Disney and Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” The Paul Rudd-Evangeline Lilly superhero movie debuted with a strong $75.8 million last weekend, earning the No. 1 spot.

Here’s what to watch:

Box-office leap of faith

Johnson has gained a reputation as one of the most bankable stars in the movie business, with hits including “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and the “Fast & Furious” movies. But “Skyscraper” is still a risky bet for the studios involved. Though it pays obvious homage to some vintage action flicks, it’s a rare summer nonsequel carrying a hefty production budget.

In “Skyscraper,” Johnson plays a U.S. veteran and security consultant with a prosthetic leg, who must save his family from a burning 240-story building. Reviews have been mixed.

The movie, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Central Intelligence”), is clearly making a play for international audiences, especially in China, where Johnson is a big draw. His most recent outing, “Rampage,” scored a solid $425 million worldwide, 76% of which came from outside the U.S. and Canada. “Rampage” grossed $156 million in China, according to Box Office Mojo.

“Skyscraper” opens in China on July 20, during a so-called blackout period mostly reserved for Chinese productions. The movie’s co-producer, Legendary, is owned by Chinese property and media conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, giving it an advantage in the world’s second-largest box-office market. The film was shot in Hong Kong and Vancouver, Canada.

A scene from "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation."
A scene from "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation." (Sony Pictures Animation)

‘Hotel Transylvania,’ but on a boat

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” which boards Sony’s family of computer animated monsters on a luxury cruise ship, is expected to collect about $35 million domestically this weekend. That would be the lowest opening for the franchise to date. “Hotel Transylvania” and “Hotel Transylvania 2” opened with $42 million and $48 million, respectively.

The franchise, starting in 2012, has been a profitable endeavor for Sony’s animation business, which has often struggled to break through in the highly competitive computer animation industry. The “Hotel Transylvania” movies, which cost about $80 million each to produce, have taken in more than $830 million in global ticket revenue.

On the more esoteric side of the business, Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures will release the critically acclaimed indie satire “Sorry to Bother You" in about 700 theaters — not a wide release, but a significant rollout for a challenging movie that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Musician-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley’s sci-fi comedy, about a black telemarketer whose life takes a dramatic turn after he adopts a “white voice,” opened in 16 theaters last week, grossing a promising $727,000.

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