"Andreas" action:Action films have for many years been at the center of the biggest boxoffice action.

What's changed from time to time over the decades is the kind of action we're talking about. In recent years, it's been comic book driven fantasy action adventures -- especially those from Marvel Studios -- that have really captured moviegoers' time and money. The latest proof that the genre's alive and well is Disney and Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which through Memorial Day weekend has grossed about $411 million domestically.

There was, however, a time when the action genre wasn't dominated by comic book superheroes. In the 1970s,action epics with disaster storylines revolving around things like sinking ships, burning skyscrapers and devastating tornados ruled the boxoffice.

This weekend sees the return of disaster driven action with the opening at about 3,650 theatres of Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures' 3D thriller "San Andreas,"from "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" director Brad Peyton. Starring are: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario and Carla Gugino.

"Andreas" is tracking in double digits and equally well with men under and over 25 and doing nearly as well with women over 25. If it explodes at the boxoffice, it could breathe new life in the disaster action genre.

          In "Andreas,"the action is propelled by amagnitude 9-plus earthquake that devastates California, forcing a rescue-chopper pilot (Johnson) and his estranged wife (Gugino) to attempt a perilous flight across the state to rescue their daughter (Daddario).

"Andreas's"disaster-sparked plot recalls earlier catastrophe blockbusters whose stories also were prompted by terrifying calamities.The disaster genre's driving force in the '70s was producer Irwin Allen, who is best remembered for "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) and "The Towering Inferno"(1974).

"Poseidon," from 20th Century Fox, was directed by Ronald Neame ("Meteor") and starred an ensemble cast led by Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters. Disaster struck in the form of a tidal wave that flippedanocean liner over, forcing its passengers to desperately seek escape by climbing through the dark submerged decks to reach the oceansurface and potential rescue.

"Poseidon" grossed $84.6 million in domestic theatres, which was terrific business in its day. Trivia buffs take note -- Director, Ronald Neame, had a long list of credits, including the 1969 drama "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," for which a young Maggie Smith won the best actress Oscar in 1970. Neame's grandson, Gareth Neame, has worked in recent years with Smith as an executive producer of the hit television series "Downton Abbey," in which Smith stars as Dowager Countess Violet Crawley.

Allen's follow-up to "Poseidon" was 1974's "Inferno," which was so big a production that Fox and Warner Bros. teamed up to finance and distribute it. Fox handled it theatrically in the U.S. and Canada and WB released it internationally. "Inferno" cost about $14 million to make – a sizable budget back then – versus about $5 million for "Poseidon."

Directed by John Guillermin, whose next film was the

1976 remake of "King Kong," "Inferno" starred Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and William Holden and also included O.J. Simpson in its cast.

          Its disaster storyline hinges on a deadly fire that breaks out during the crowded opening night party for a San Francisco skyscraper that is waytoo tall for firemen to attack from the ground.

"Inferno" grossed $116 million domestically, a hefty sum for the time. It was nominated for 8 Oscars, including best picture, and won three (for cinematography, film editing and original song).

Although Allen was known as the Master of Disaster in the '70s, he wasn't the only filmmaker working in the genre. One non-Allen hit was 1974's "Earthquake,"which was made by Universal for about $7 million. It grossed an impressive $79.7 million domestically. 

Produced and directed by Mark Robson ("Valley of the Dolls"), it starred Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and George Kennedy in a story about a multi-magnitude shaker devastating Los Angeles. 

Other filmmakers continued to achievesuccess in the disaster genre in the coming years. One of the biggest of these was Warner Bros., Universal and Amblin Entertainment's 1996 production "Twister."

Directed by Jan de Bont ("Speed"), it starred Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton and Cary Elwes. The disaster here was a massive tornado that put a group of stormchasers' lives in peril.

"Twister" opened May 10, 1996 to $41.1 million and went on to gross $241.7 million domestically, which was massive business for its time.

Bottom line:If "Andreas" generatesboxoffice rumbling this weekend, it could spawn a disaster genre revival. Because natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and fires are threats to people everywhere and routinely make headlines, films with these storylines tend to resonate with audiences.

Perhaps that's because despite mother nature's brute force, the films' lead characters typically survive, which is empowering to anyone fearful of ever being caught in the same dire circumstances.

          However, moviegoers who want to avoid thinking about disaster this weekend will be able to stay safely in the world of romantic comedy drama with Columbia Pictures and Regency Enterprises' PG-13 rated "Aloha."

Directed by Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), it stars Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone."Aloha," opening at about 2,700 theatres, is tracking best and equally well with under-25 men and women over 25.

Its story revolves around a military contractor (Cooper) who returns to head a new project at the US Space program in Honolulu, where he's enjoyed past triumphs. Hoping to revive his recently troubled career, he reconnects with a long-ago love (McAdams),but also falls for his partner on the new assignment, a beautiful young Air Force pilot (Stone).