Weekend Box Office: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

HollywoodNews.com: While not quite as mighty as the first series reboot ten years earlier, Rise of the Planet of the Apes had a muscular debut big enough to easily win the weekend. Scoring $54 million, the Rupert Wyatt science-fiction drama very-nearly played like an old-fashioned, adult-targeted blockbuster. It opened on Friday with $19.7 million and dropped just 1% on Saturday and ended with the weekend with a solid 2.74x weekend multiplier. The film scored an A- from Cinemascore and played 56% male.

It’s another solid win for Fox, as the film allegedly cost just $90 million. It’s also pretty darn good, even if I’m not a fan of the last twenty minutes (if I may avoid spoilers, I think the film does itself a slight disservice by attaching itself to the Planet of the Apes franchise). Even if he’ll get little credit, it’s a solid win for James Franco, as it’s easily his biggest debut outside of the Spider-Man franchise, nearly doubling the $23 million debut of The Pineapple Express on this weekend of 2008. And after the relative under-performance of Cowboys and Aliens (-56% this weekend, for a $15.7 million weekend and a $67 million running total for a miserable and utterly worthless mediocrity), this is an encouraging sign that you don’t need to be 3D to be successful in the big-budget genre marketplace. Ironically, Fox (home of Avatar) is the first studio this year to have two 2D films opening over $50 million (after X-Men: First Class). For what it’s worth, Rise of the Planet of the Apes scored the fourth-biggest 2D opening of the year, behind The Hangover part II ($87 million), Fast Five ($86 million), and X-Men: First Class ($55 million).

If you recall, this is the second time in ten years that 20th Century Fox has tried to revive the first ongoing science-fiction franchise in modern film history. Back in late-July 2001, they unleashed Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, which was more of a straight remake of the 1968 original (it also invented the modern reboot). It opened with an astonishing $68.5 million, the second biggest three-debut ever at that time (and prime evidence that opening weekends were on an upswing).

However, it was a raging mediocrity and audiences didn’t care for it, nor for the ‘Up-yours!’ ending (which I rather liked, natch) and the film ended with $180 million. Sadly, by today’s standards, a 2.6x opening weekend-to-domestic total would be almost normal for a big-budget genre entry, but Fox merely took their $360 million in worldwide grosses and went home (also an unusual move, especially in this day and age). Ten years later, few expected similar results (no Tim Burton this time around), but the fact that this low-key and almost arty sci-fi drama opened as well as it did points to a strong niche following for this iconic franchise. Positive word of mouth may bring out those hesitant to be twice-bitten. Since it is the last of the blockbusters for this summer, it has a chance of holding on to a bit more of its audience than some of the others. Still, even if it performs like GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (which opened this weekend two years ago to similar numbers) a $150 million domestic total, plus Fox’s usual overseas marketing might, will make Rise of the Planet of the Apes into a highly profitable venture and the possible relaunch of the franchise. See, THIS is why you shouldn’t spend $150 million on every genre entry!

Photo by Twentieth Century Fox

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