Dwayne clenches the jaw of his granite as he looks into the distance. He laughs with a belly-shaking belly-laugh as a bead of perspiration drips from his forehead. The Rock is doing his thing on a hot Atlanta summer’s day. He delivers his lines with panache, swaggers out of shot and licks his lip.
Johnson’s attention is never far from his mind these days. The 46-year old former professional wrestler , who is now Hollywood’s most bankable celebrity, has used his indefatigable charisma, which drives him to, half-jokingly suggest that he could be a presidential candidate, over the past decade. The vast majority of the $124 million earned by his acting last year is the highest amount ever in 20 years .Celebrity100 and almost double what he made in 2017.
Johnson says, “The most important thing is to make stuff for the whole world,” while sitting in an air-conditioned trailer wearing a blue shirt with polka dots and jeans. Other words, ubiquity. In addition to his movies, he has a hit HBO series Ballers and one of social media’s most clever strategies. He delivers videos that are inspirational, usually in his mobile gym. The other posts, which leverage another 13 million followers on Twitter and 58 millions on Facebook, introduce movie trailers, and show Johnson in meetings. They are decorated with hashtags and thousands of likes.
He’s now pioneering a way to cash-in on his digital fame. According to sources familiar with his contracts, he will insist on a seven-figure fee for social media with each movie he appears in, along with the hefty upfront paychecks of $20 million and a cut of studio profits – beginning with July’s Skyscraper, where he plays an FBI hostage rescue leader. The studios are now spending money on paid marketing channels, instead of TV ads and billboards.Johnson says that “social media has become a critical part of my marketing strategy for a film.” “I’ve established social media equity, proving to an audience all over the world that I have value for them in what I deliver.”
Johnson continues to do the talk-show circuit, press tours and other promotional duties that are expected of stars. (Especially when the real money is coming from the box office back end). Johnson’s attempt to establish a Hollywood precedent by stating that social media platforms are separate platforms and require separate fees is that he insists that they be treated as separate platforms.
The Rock seems to be the exception. The studios have apparently accepted that a tentpole film can spend more than $150 million on promotion and not guarantee a hit. Studio’s can promote new movies more effectively and cheaply by tapping into the fan base of A-list stars.
Paul Dergarabedian is a senior analyst at ComScore and says that the star power right now is social media. The Rock is the only one who has demanded cash on top of his existing contract for social media. Kevin Hart’s Central Intelligencecostar earned $2 million in Sony’s past for tweeting about films he was involved with and others. However, the amount of his overall salary is dwarfed by Johnson. Studios now use social media engagement and following to help make casting decisions.
Johnson has always been a hugely popular figure. He was inspired by his father and grandfather to enter professional wrestling. He borrowed a part of Rocky Johnson’s ringname, and became The Rock, a nickname that encompassed both his physique as well as his attitude.
In 2001, Universal executives saw his appearance in Saturday Night Live and gave him a small cameo role in The Mummy Returns. Impressed, Universal gave his small character its own spin-off, The Scorpion King. The film went on to gross more than $165 millions worldwide, despite a $60 million budget.
After a series of mediocre action films and three saccharine, family-friendly movies (Tooth Fairy anyone? The Rock relaunched his career with a resurgence of the brawn which first won him fans. He explains, “My past wrestling experience has helped me to have a connection with an audience.” It has to be the audience first. What do the audiences want? And what is the best scenario we can create to send them home happy?”
Such a give-the-people-what-they-want philosophy may not win him Oscars, but it will make billions at the box office. Analysts say that Johnson’s appeal is high in all four quadrants of the multiplex, including males, females, those over 25 and those under 25.He’s a reliable hedge for studios against a North American box-office that dropped 2% to $11.1 billion in 2017. It’s not necessary to translate the international language of exploding things, as this is what sells overseas. More than 64% (of his box office grosses) come from foreign audiences. Johnson’s fusion of Samoan and African American heritage makes him a global hero.
Johnson’s business skills improved as he became more successful. In 2005, Johnson and his manager Dany Garcia launched Seven Bucks Productions to transform The Rock from a mere actor. Eight members of the Seven Bucks digital, creative and production team work with Johnson on all aspects of a film, from the development and production to the promotion. The company has a YouTube channel, and also creates mobile content to be used on Johnson’s social media channels.
Garcia, a former Wealth Manager who runs Seven Bucks Productions with Johnson and also runs a Talent Management firm, says that “having a large footprint” helps them execute. “We wouldn’t do anything half-assed.”
Johnson’s recent Ford partnership and Apple endorsements are examples of the impact that was created. Seven Bucks Creative and Johnson, with the help of an ex-Droga5 executive added to their team, created Johnson’s Project Rock Campaign for Under Armour. Johnson had a popular apparel line as well as a brand new set of headphones.Johnson’s projects will naturally progress to those where he is not the main focus. Garcia says, “This is the next step.” “Let’s own properties, develop them and search for properties we can retell.” Seven Bucks is releasing The Janson Directive starring WWE colleague John Cena and Shazam! a superhero adventure in the coming years.
Seven Bucks, as the name suggests, is an inside joke. It’s a reference to a difficult period in his early career when he left the Canadian Football League in October 1995 and was broke.He recalls, “I had a 5, a 1, and change” of his networth, adding, as an optimist “I rounded it up to seven.”
His net worth has risen to around $165 million. He claims that his journey has been a success. Johnson said, “I’ve learned that [Disney CEO] Bob Iger taught me that if you want to do something with global appeal, it’s going take time – a decade, a couple of decades, or even more.” What will the next 20 years look like? He speaks as if he were a hashtag, “It is limitless.”