Rise of the Planet of the Apes Dominates Opening Weekend with $54 Million

Rise of the Planet of the Apes trampled expectations and the competition in easily securing the top spot at the North American box office through its first three days playing in theaters. The prequel and second franchise reboot effort beat out the other newcomer for the week, the Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman comedy The Change-Up, which opened to underwhelming numbers in fourth place. Overall, the top ten was up a huge 43.3% over the top ten one year ago.

It appears that you can’t keep a good monkey down, especially if his name is Caesar. Despite a series of so-so sequels in the 1970s and Tim Burton’s equally so-so reboot a decade ago, Fox has decided to dust off the Planet of the Apes franchise yet again. Instead of being a sequel to the Burton edition, Fox wiped the slate clean and started again with a prequel. Judging by the 81% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and more importantly, the $54 million opening on 3,648 screens (all of them in 2D!), the choice to start at the beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the right one.

The $93 million production stars James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox and Andy Serkis in a motion-capture performance that is earning raves across the board. The film was directed by Rupert Wyatt. Audiences bestowed it with an “A-” CinemaScore rating, which should help the movie sustain itself over the remaining few weeks of the summer movie season and cruise right past the $100 million mark without much trouble. The $54 million estimated opening is the third best non-3D opening of the summer, right behind the openings for The Hangover Part II and another well-received Fox franchise reboot, X-Men: First Class.

In second place this weekend for the second weekend in the row was Sony’s 3D kiddie hit The Smurfs. The critically-reviled live-action/CG hybrid of the beloved 1980s cartoon series eased a moderate 41% from last weekend to earn $21 million this weekend. After ten days, the comedy has earned an impressive $76.2 million and should be able to cross the $100 million mark in the next two weeks. With no real competition to speak of for family dollars, Papa Smurf and his gang should collar approximately $125-130 million in domestic sales before heading off to home video this fall.

Universal’s sci-fi western Cowboys and Aliens met with some resistance in its sophomore round as it fell from first to third place this weekend. Off a troubling 57% from its opening tally, the Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig starrer collared $15.7 million from 3,754 screens to bring its ten-day total to $67.3 million. The Jon Favreau-directed flick should ride off into the sunset with an underwhelming $95-100 million in domestic sales, far below the movie’s reported $163 million production budget.

Universal’s woes continued with the weak debut of The Change-Up, which earned $13.5 million on 2,915 screens. The Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds body switching comedy was reviled by critics, and audiences didn’t seem all that enamored with it either. While Bateman can take a little solace in the fact that Horrible Bosses has earned over $100 million at the box office thus far, Reynolds is suffering his second bomb of the summer following the crash and burn suffered by Green Lantern.

In fifth place while losing another 49% of its audience was Paramount and Marvel Studios’ Captain America: the First Avenger. The Chris Evans-starrer earned $13 million from 3,620 screens to bring its three week total to the $143 million mark. Given the film’s fast fade, Captain America will not reach the $180 million tally achieved by fellow Avenger Thor at the start of the summer season. Instead, Cap should reach the $165 million mark by the end of its run. Overseas, the film has been a big hit thus far with an early gross of $103 million to bring its overall total thus far to a solid $246 million.

Two Warner Brothers releases occupied slots six and seven this weekend. The studio’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 added another $12 million to its bulging domestic total, which now stands at a big $342 million. The film will pass Transformers: Dark of the Moon as the biggest hit of the year on Monday. Thanks to a massive opening in China this weekend, Potter added another $61 million to its foreign total, which now stands at a huge $791 million for a global total of $1.13 billion. Wow. The studio’s romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid Love held well in its second round by slipping a slight 37% to bring in $12.1 million to bring its ten-day total to $42 million so far. The movie could find its way to $65-70 million.

Rounding out the top ten were three holdover hits. Friends With Benefits added $4.7 million to its total, which now stands at $48.5 million. Horrible Bosses earned $4.6 million to bring its total to an impressive $105 million so far, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon added another $3 million to its domestic coffers, which now stand at a big $344 million. With nearly $700 million earned from overseas markets, the third chapter of Michael Bay’s sci-fi epics has earned an incredible $1.04 billion.

Next weekend, four new films will enter the marketplace and take aim at toppling Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Final Destination 5, The Help, 30 Minutes or Less and…wait for it…Glee Live in 3D. Thank. You. God.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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