Skyscraper made a dramatic leap into the box office this past weekend but landed far short of industry predictions despite a big star (Dwayne Johnson), global appeal and earnest marketing efforts.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest vehicle debuted at number three at the box office, earning an estimated $25.4 million domestically. Last week, analysts predicted Skyscraper would bring in upwards of $40 million and compete with Sony’s Hotel Transylvania 3. The latter debuted at number one with an estimated $44.1 million.
Universal launched a number of marketing campaigns to hype Johnson’s action thriller that included a Facebook Live event in which daredevil Alain “The Human Spider” Robert scaled the side of a real skyscraper in Hong Kong.
The studio banked a lot of money on Johnson’s box office draw and active social media presence. In addition, Universal spent an estimated $15 million in TV ads for Skyscraper across 36 networks like Fox and Telemundo. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life, and much less in the box office—but Universal might have been able to avoid such a disappointing release.
“While Universal launched a great marketing campaign, sometimes there are just too many other factors working against a film,” Karie Bible, box office analyst and film historian at Exhibitor Relations, told AList. “Skyscraper might have benefited from a different release date during a far less crowded time on the calendar.”
Skyscraper was not as family-friendly as Johnson’s more recent films, Bible noted, causing it to miss out on audiences who opted for Hotel Transylvania 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp instead.
Genre aside, audiences can get “star fatigue” when an actor—even a popular one—releases projects too close together.
“[Johnson] starred in three films in 2017: The Fate of the Furious ($226 mil), Baywatch ($58 mil) and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($404.5 mil),” said Bible. “His previous film Rampage ($99.1 mil) opened exactly three months before Skyscraper. This is in addition to his strong social media presence and his starring role on the HBO series Ballers.”
Skyscraper was developed with Chinese market appeal in mind, centering the action in the country and basing its titular location on Hong Kong’s 1067-meter-tall building “The Pearl.” The film opens in China, where Johnson’s films traditionally perform well, on July 20.