Weekend Box Office: Apes Dominate Quiet Weekend

It was another snoozer at the North American box office this weekend as another trio of new releases failed to entice ticket buyers back into theaters. Universal’s low-budget sequel The Purge: Anarchy had an okay opening while Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue and Sony’s Sex Tape did not. All three took a distant backseat to the hit Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which stayed put in first place. Sales were down a steep 24% from last year at this time as the box office continued to limp along to a finish line that is still a long ways off.

Strong word-of-mouth from ticket buyers kept Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the number one spot for a second weekend on 3,969 screens where it earned $36 million. The 50% drop that the critically acclaimed sequel experienced was the best hold that any of the big summer flicks this year has experienced. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has earned a solid $139 million through ten days of release and is currently running 32% ahead of its predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Domestically, Caesar and his gang could make their way to $220-230 million. Overseas, the film has earned a sizable $102 million in two weeks and could make it to the half billion dollar mark.

Last year’s The Purge wasn’t very well liked by anyone outside of studio execs at Universal Pictures. The $3 million production opened in June of 2013 to the tune of $34.1 million, roughly ten times the amount it cost to make it. It faded fast but not before nabbing $89 million worldwide with millions of additional revenue from home video and cable. With visions of quick bucks dancing in their corporate heads, a sequel was green-lighted for release this past weekend.

While Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, stars of the first Purge were nowhere to be found, writer/director James DeMonaco did return for The Purge: Anarchy. Armed with a bigger budget (a whopping $9 million) and a new cast that includes Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Zach Gilford, The Purge: Anarchy arrived on 2,805 theaters Friday where it earned a solid –and again, instantly profitable- $28.4 million.

As with the first Purge, Friday was the biggest grosser for Anarchy: $13 million. And like the original, business dropped quickly after that (27% on Saturday and 38% on Sunday). Reviews were mostly negative (53% on Rotten Tomatoes), but they were still an improvement over the original.

If this summer has been weak for motion pictures in general, then it has been downright horrible for animated features. Pixar couldn’t get its act together and had to move its summer 2014 offering to fall 2015. That move should have given How to Train Your Dragon 2 the family market all to itself, which would have led to at least $250-300 million in ticket sales. Despite strong reviews across the boards, all the Fox release could muster so far is an underwhelming $160 million.

Judging by the weak $18 million the Disney sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue mustered up on 3,826 screens, it appears that animated viewer apathy will be going away any time soon. The quickie follow up to the August 2013 hit was given a prime release spot right in the middle of the season and failed to capitalize on either that or the fact that like Dragon 2, it has the market practically all to itself. Also like Dragon 2, the foreign markets should come to the film’s rescue in regards to turning a profit. Reviews were largely negative with a 44% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating.

The third and weakest wide release this weekend was Sony’s critically slammed comedy Sex Tape with $15 million from 3,062 screens. Directed by Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) and starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, the R-rated comedy proved to be as unfunny as the endless parade of awful trailers and television ads hinted at. Critics gave the film a 20% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while audiences voted to ignore the latest Cameron Diaz misfire with their wallets.

Rounding out the top five was Paramount’s robot epic Transformers: Age of Extinction with an estimated $10 million from 3,224 theaters. Off only 39% -it’s best hold to date- the Michael Bay sequel has earned $227.1 million to date and is still aiming for a final gross between $240-250 million domestically. The film will become the highest-grossing feature of the summer in North America this week, surpassing the $230 million earned so far by X-Men: Days of Future Past. Overseas, the film has earned a big $659 million and is moving closer to the one billion dollar mark globally. China’s total stands at a mammoth $285 million with the $300 million mark not out of the question by the end of its run in that country.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

  1. Tammy (Warner Bros.) $7.6 million (-39%) $72 million
  1. 22 Jump Street (Sony) $4.7 million (-27%) $180 million
  1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Fox) $3.8 million (-37%) $160 million
  1. Maleficent (Disney) $3.3 million (-28%) $228.3 million
  2. Earth to Echo (Relativity) $3.2 million (-40%) $32 million

Next weekend brings us the latest Luc Besson action flick Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson and Rob Reiner’s And So It Goes starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Watch for Hercules to flex his box office muscle to send Caesar and Koba packing next weekend.

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