Weekend Box Office – RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Rises Above Expectations with $54 Million

     August 7, 2011


Looks like summer 2011 had one more blockbuster left after all.  Cowboys and Aliens may have been a late-July disappointment but, so far, Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is performing more like a June release than your typical August afterthought.  Surpassing all early projections, the sci-fi vehicle took in an estimated $54 million from 3,648 locations for an easy number one at the US box office.

  Title Weekend Total
1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes $54,000,000 $54
2 The Smurfs $21,000,000 $76.2
3 Cowboys and Aliens $15,748,000 $67.3
4 The Change-Up $13,500,000 $13.5
5 Captain America $13,000,000 $143.1
6 Harry Potter 7b $12,160,000 $342.8
7 Crazy, Stupid, Love $12,100,000 $42.1
8 Friends with Benefits $4,700,000 $48.5
9 Horrible Bosses $4,620,000 $105.1
10 Transformers 3 $3,015,000 $344.1

rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-poster-01As late as Friday afternoon it looked like Rise of the Planet of the Apes would top out around $40 million.  Believe it or not that was seen as a win for a film that initially seemed limited by its nebulous place in a long-standing franchise (is it a prequel? a reboot?  a stand-alone pic?) and by the fact that its lead character was something other than human.  Earlier in the week many were predicting an Apes debut in line with Super 8, which launched in June with $35.4 million but went on to top $125 million domestic off a budget of just $50 million.

Then came that big opening day of $19.75 million, which not only eclipsed the $12.1 million first Friday of Super 8 but also the $14.2 million opening of the last notable August sci-fi hit: District 9.  Suddenly it seemed like Fox’s apes would rise… all the way above the outer boundary of anyone’s expectations: $50 million.  That would make the latest Apes release comparable to the studio’s own X-Men: First Class (which pulled in $55.1 million over its first weekend two months back) and much closer to the debut of the last entry in the long-running franchise than anyone imagined.

Way back in July 2001, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes reboot opened with $68.5 million: one of the highest opening weekends of that particular year.  Of course Burton’s apes would fall (off by 60% the very next weekend) but, a decade later, the franchise seems destined for much better multiples.  First, Rise has good reviews (81% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to Burton’s 45%) and word of mouth on its side (estimates saw almost no decline Friday to Saturday). Second, its budget of $93 million may be higher than Super 8’s but it is damn near thrifty compared to the $160 million plus of First Class and last weekend’s Cowboys and Aliens.  Third, the film may not boast 3D but its Andy Serkis-meets-Avatar effects are almost sure to bring in increased revenue for Apes overseas (the film went day and date around the world but international figures are not yet available).

the-change-up-movie-image-jason-bateman-ryan-reynolds-01If the importance of international audiences was the major theme of this summer’s box office, here in the US the summer of 2011 saw a boom of a different sort: the R-rated comedy.  Of course, after this weekend we might have to include an asterisk when mentioning that fact.  That’s because Universal’s The Change-Up – which gamely tried to turn the R-rated trend to its advantage in recent marketing  – only managed a fourth place opening.  With an estimated $13.5 million from 2,913 locations, the body-switching comedy from Wedding Crashers director David Dobkins and The Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore underwhelmed.  Despite massive press done by stars Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, the film had a debut weekend that was not much higher than what fellow R-rater Bad Teacher saw on its opening day alone.  Add in a much larger budget of $52 million (compared to the $20 million of Teacher) and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 20% and I’d say the reign of the summer R-rater is over.

On a more positive note, this week saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon become the third title of 2011 to break one billion in worldwide grosses (after Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2).  The combined power of Tf3 and HP72 also helped this July become the most lucrative month in box office history with just under $1.4 billion.

In more modest (but no less welcome) news: this weekend the domestic box office extended its winning streak to four in a row – which I believe is the longest period we have stayed ahead of 2010 levels all year.  Next weekend the streak will most likely break, however.  The Help opens on Wednesday to give it room before the weekend’s three other newbies crowd in.  Even with all the choices I’m not sure if any title (including Final Destination 5) can top 2010’s The Expendables and Eat Pray Love combo. We’ll see.


  • Hiro the Eighth Samurai (and 14th Assassin)

    This has been a summer full of many misfires, underachievers and outright bombs.
    Do the pompous, overpaid executives in Hollywood even know what they’re doing. From the outside looking in, a little peon like me (as well as countless others) can spot the problems miles away. The problem is Hollywood itself. They’re getting in the way of their own success.

    They need to learn that sometimes, Less is More.

    With junk such as Transformers, More is More. That will bring in tons of money. But in the case of all the underwhelming superhero movies, as well as Cowboys & Aliens and Sucker Punch, More is Bad.

    Throwing in half a dozen writers is almost always a bad sign. Unless someone’s making a film that consists of different stories, told by different directors and are connected only by theme, a scripts largely requires a singular vision. I say, two screenwriters at most should be working on any given script.

    Then perhaps an editor can come in and tweak it. But that’s about it.

    Cowboys & Aliens had about 6 screenwriters.

    If it weren’t so pathetic, it’d be hilarious how The Change-Up made less than $14 million in its opening weekend. It’s even more hilarious how the much-more hyped Cowboys & Aliens bombed in its first weekend, barely beating the Smurfs and then sunk in it second weekend, making less than $16 million, whereas the Smurfs pulled in $21 million.

    Sure, there are going to be flops and misfires from time to time, but this summer, again, was full of them.

    Hollywood? The days of lazy scripts being saved by big-name actors, producers and directors, as well as CGI gimmicks and big-name franchise titles is just about over, if not already in the trash.

    Start with a great idea, a good script, they won’t need to rely on CGI gimmickry and post-production 3D conversion to make a mint.

    • The Train!

      i was hoping someone would point out that the smurfs looks to outperform cowboys and aliens.

      regarding your less is more premise: bad teacher (despite how awful it was) should be considered a success from the studio’s perspective. on a $20 million budget, it grossed $97 million domestic and $88 million overseas!

      super 8′s success was already covered in the article. granted, $125 million domestic pales in comparison to some other movies out there, but given that the movie had no famous faces, everyone who went did so because of abrams and spielberg’s connection to the movie, and then word of mouth. super 8 had all of the things you mention: a great idea and a good script, plus great performances.

      • Hiro the Eighth Samurai (and 14th Assassin)

        The Smurfs was just a silly movie for young kids, and looks awful for me as an adult, but it overachieved because it knew its audience. Or maybe it was just lucky, being a film for young kids/families in a sea of films for older viewers.

        I haven’t been dumping on Bad Teacher (even though I still won’t be seeing it) because it’s a relatively low-budget movie that, as you pointed out, more than made its budget back. And, good or bad, that’s a big part of the movie business.

        I have not seen Super 8 (namely because it did sound somewhat derivative of Spielberg movies from the 80s, although I do know that was part of the point of the movie), but I’ll rent it. Otherwise, I do agree with what you stated.

        All good movies start with a good idea. And “Hey, we got some cool CGI of dinosaurs! Of aliens! Of spaceships!” doesn’t count as a good idea.

        I still want to see Attack the Block, much more than any of the big, bloated messes that are falling far short of their budgets. But it’s not playing in many areas. Yet, there’s all these underachieving movies playing at every single theater and I wouldn’t go see them even if the theater gave me a free ticket.

        With so many hundreds of millions of dollars flying around, with such big salaries for the executives, I would think they’d know their business a bit better. I like cake from time to time, and frosting can be incredibly delicious, but that doesn’t mean I want to eat a cake that’s 90 percent frosting.

        I often wonder if Hollywood executives will learn from when they release a string of flops, but I’ve learned to never hold my breath.

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