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!
There is little real news among the holdovers. Horrible Bosses crossed the $100 million mark on Thursday, while its current total stands at $105 million. Bad Teacher is close, with $97.5 million, and I imagine Sony will try to keep it in theaters long enough to cross said milestone. The other R-rated comedy in the marketplace, Friends With Benefits, sits with $48 million after three weekends. It won't come anywhere near the first two, but its still a solid win for its $35 million budget and its relatively untested leads (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are new to the whole 'opening this by yourself' game). The first, best, and most successful of the pack, Bridesmaids, is closing up its run, but it's already grossed $166 million and looks to be a surefire Oscar contender in the Best Original Screenplay category. In other surefire Oscar contender news (for technical categories), Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ended the weekend neck-and-neck in domestic box office. The Harry Potter series finale sits just $2 million behind the robot sequel, with $342 million versus Transformers 3's $344 million. Expect 'the boy who lived' to be the top-grossing domestic earner of 2011 in a few days. Both have crossed $1 billion overseas, and Harry Potter just passed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to become the biggest worldwide hit of 2011, and the sixth-biggest global grosser ever.
A few final notes. The Zookeeper has displayed decent legs, slowly making its way past the $70 million mark and heading towards an $80 million final cum. Green Lantern finally crossed the $150 million mark worldwide this weekend, which is an embarrassment all around (read HERE for how to save the series without rebooting). And for a 'flop' that wasn't Kung Fu Panda 2 now sits with $611 million worldwide, meaning it is the fifth-biggest Dreamworks cartoon in history, behind Kung Fu Panda ($630 million), and the three Shrek sequels. Oh, and Tree of Life is nearing $40 million worldwide. Good.
That's it for this weekend. Join us next time when The Help opens on Wednesday and then faces off against Final Destination 5 (yes, my wife is dragging me to this one...) and 30 Seconds Or Less (there's just something about a pizza delivery man being forced to rob a bank and then blown up that SCREAMS comedy). Until then, keep reading and commenting.
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