Johnson makes it as movie star

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Dwayne Johnson became a bona fide movie star over the weekend, powering his San Andreas disaster thriller to a better-than-expected US$53.2 million (S$71.9 million) in North American ticket sales.

Johnson, aka the Rock, his former pro-wrestling nickname, has struggled to find a cinematic identity.

Ensemble efforts (Furious 7, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) have been successful, but attempts to veer towards the family audience (The Tooth Fairy, Race To Witch Mountain) were busts and previous solo action gigs (Hercules, Snitch) did not go much better.

San Andreas, which cost the New Line unit of Warner Bros and Village Roadshow about US$110 million to make, split the difference and audiences responded: The flagrantly over-the-top movie finds Johnson as both an action hero and an unabashed family man.

San Andreas was No. 1 in North America and performed especially well in 3-D and large-format theatres, which charge premium prices.

It soared past recent forecasts of a US$40-million launch, taking in more than five times as much as the US$10 million opening of Sony's romantic comedy Aloha, the weekend's only other debut. Cameron Crowe's Aloha arrived amid extensive negative buzz despite the starpower of Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams to debut at No. 6.

Johnson, 43, has been front and centre in the promotion for San Andreas, in which he plays a heroic helicopter pilot seeking to rescue his daughter amid the rubble of a mega-quake.

Mr Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, said: "Johnson is clearly one of the most bankable stars working today... Johnson's versatility, charisma, humour and his imposing physical presence on the big screen has made him the go-to guy for film-makers looking to ratchet up the excitement level and drawing power of their films."

Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal) was at No. 2 and Tomorrowland (Disney) was third.

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