Weekend Box Office: Apes Rule the Multiplex

The genetically enhanced simians of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had no issue ruling the North American box office in its opening weekend. The anticipated follow up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the only wide release of the weekend and wound up making more than the next 15 films combined.

The potent bow for Apes helped the top ten rise seventeen percent over last week’s anemic totals, but it wasn’t enough to shake the overall doldrums still plaguing the movie business this year. Once again, the top ten lagged behind 2013’s numbers by a sizable 27%.

Opening the first weekend in August back in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised everyone on two levels. The first was just how good Rupert Wyatt’s film turned out to be and the second was the $54 million the movie earned in its first weekend. The recipient of positive feedback, Rise never fell below the 50% mark in terms of audience drop-off until its sixth weekend of release. By then, it had bagged $167 million of its $176 million domestic haul. Suffice to say, a sequel was already in the works.

That sequel is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which arrived on 3,967 screens Thursday night to command a big $73 million for a spectacular per screen average of $18,402 and a 30% increase in business over the last film (having a majority of screens showing the film in 3D undoubtedly helped with the increase). The film also opened in a few major markets overseas where it earned $30.4 million. Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield) assumed director duties on Dawn. Andy Serkis returns again to play Caesar and is joined by Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman as survivors of the human race.

Reviews for Dawn were even stronger than for Rise, which itself garnered a great 82% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Dawn collared a 91% RT approval, with some critics calling it the best film of the 45-year old series thus far (check out my review here). Ticket buyers gave the film an encouraging “A-,” which also happened to be the same grade bestowed upon Rise. Positive word-of-mouth appears to already be spreading among fans and ticket buyers. The breakdown for Dawn’s daily box office was $27.7 million on Friday, $25.5 million on Saturday (-8%) and $19.7 million estimated for Sunday (a decrease of 22%).

The eight percent decrease on Saturday is of note since sequels such as Dawn see the majority of fans hit theaters on opening day, which leads to second day drops in the 15-25% range. Should Dawn encounter the same level of durability that Rise did at the box office three summers ago, its domestic haul may zip past $220 million if not higher. The film has no direct competition until Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy arrives on August 1. The third Apes film is tentatively scheduled for July of 2016.

The previous two-week champ, Transformers: Age of Extinction, stepped aside for the return of Caesar as the Michael Bay flick lost 55% of its 4th of July audience in its third round on 3,913 screens to earn an estimated $16.5 million. After three weeks the sci-fi epic has earned $209 million and is still heading toward a final domestic haul between $230-240 million.

With the World Cup coming to a close, Paramount began to roll the latest Transformers out to its remaining major markets. The result was a spectacular $102 million weekend and a new overseas haul of $543.5 million, proving yet again that the North American market is not the end all, be all for big event flicks. A prime example is China, who added an additional $25 million to its massive total, which stands at $263 million.

Warner’s R-rated comedy Tammy held on far better than anyone expected in its second weekend on 3,465 screens. Off only 40%, Melissa McCarthy and company earned a solid $13 million this weekend to bring its ten-day total to a solid (and profitable) $57.3 million. A final total between $75-80 million is possible.

Fourth place went to another R-rated comedy, Sony’s 22 Jump Street. The sequel kept marching right along in its fifth weekend on 2,811 screens where it earned $6.7 million. Off 32%, the Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill hit has earned a great $172 million domestically and another $81.7 million overseas. Given the holds the film has shown over the past several weeks it would come as no surprise if the film comes close to hitting the $200 million mark by the end of its North American run.

Rounding out the top five was Fox/Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 with an estimated $5.8 million from 2,885 theaters. Although the film isn’t playing as strong as expected, it has displayed decent legs so far. The film was off only 35% to bring its total to $152 million. Direct competition arrives on Friday with Disney’s Planes sequel Fire and Rescue, so there is the possibility that the percentage drops will become steeper over the next few weeks. Dragon 2 should fly off into the cinematic sunset with $170 million domestically. Overseas, the film has soared to $197 million.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

  1. Earth to Echo (Relativity) $5.5 million (-34%); $24.5 million
  2. Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems) $4.7 million (-52%); $25 million
  3. Maleficent (Disney) $4.1 million (-32%); $222 million
  4. Begin Again (Weinstein Company) $2.9 million (NEW); $5.2 million
  5. Jersey Boys (Warner) $2.5 million (-51%); $41.7 million

Next weekend sees the arrival of the aforementioned Planes: Fire and Rescue, the comedy Sex Tape and The Purge: Anarchy. Will any have the firepower to knock Caesar and Koba down off of their number one perch? We’ll find out next Sunday.

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