HOLLYWOOD, June 1 (UPI) -- Opening weekend for Aloha proved to be a nail-biter in itself as the San Andreas tsunami overshadowed it in the box office with an estimated $53 million domestic total.
Beloved director Cameron Crowe's romantic comedy, however, earned sixth place with $10 million in sales over the weekend. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes gave Aloha a measly 18 percent approval rating and a single star coming in, but Sony is enthusiastic about it becoming a longstanding success.
Sony Pictures' distribution chief Rory Bruer said Sunday that Aloha's opening weekend was "within the studio's expectations," pointing out that some positive reviews are predictors of the film's strength in the coming weeks.
"We're proud of the film," he said. "Our very talented cast is great, and we believe it will leg out nicely. There are so many special moments, so it's very satisfying for audience members."
In the face of plenty of negative reviews prior to the film's opening, the first eight minutes of Aloha were released by Sony Pictures in hopes of swaying some viewers to give it a chance. In the short clip, Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams' characters meet for the first time.
"I think audiences are always rooting for Cameron Crowe to succeed," Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Rentrak told Variety. "But since the heyday of his first five films as director (Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky) he has had a rough time finding an audience for his unique vision."
Other critics weren't as soft with their reviews. Many were taken aback by the choice to cast Emma Stone as Asian-American pilot Allison Ng.
"Accepting Emma Stone as an Asian-American in Aloha requires a certain suspension of disbelief and no small amount of magical thinking," wrote Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Lee, who questioned the large amount of attention paid to Ng's "otherness" despite the presence of "alabaster-skinned" Stone.
"If Ng's Hawaiian pedigree is so crucial to the movie's plot, why not simply cast an actress -- Olivia Munn for instance -- whose racial profile is within the genetic ballpark?" he asked. "Or, if the endgame was to hire a proven box-office draw like the Birdman and Amazing Spider-Man co-star, why not back-burner the issue of Ng's race while focusing dialogue around her cultural heritage as a native Hawaiian?"
John Oliver, commentating on the FIFA scandal, used Aloha in an illustration of counter-productivity: "It's like a Sony executive green-lighting a sequel in the middle of watching Aloha. 'This is absolutely terrible, and I need to make sure there's more of it. We'll call it Aloha 2: This Time We Mean the Other Meaning.'"
But despite the less-than-notable numbers in the box office, questionable casting choices and grave reviews, Aloha wasn't a huge risk for Sony. Unlike San Andreas' huge $110 million budget, what Crowe calls his "love letter to Hawaii" only cost $37 million.