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Weekend Box Office: Planet of the Apes Rises to the Top, The Change-Up Under-Performs, Horrible Bosses Crosses $100M

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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 (-64% this weekend, for a $15.6 million weekend and a $64 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!

The other big opener this weekend was The Change-Up, which scored $13.5 million.  While that's off a bit from the R-rated comedy norm, it's still an okay opening for a terribly-reviewed, just-$40 million comedy that is advertised as basically a 'no girls allowed!' male raunch-fest.  Much digital ink has already been spilled about how 'This proves Ryan Reynolds isn't a star!', to which I say, of course he's not.  He may be a solid actor in the right projects, and he gives a good interview, but he has never proven himself as an opener, and this is arguably the first film he's had to open on his own (it's not like Jason Bateman, one of my favorite character actors, can open a movie either).  Reynolds has had four $20 million+ debuts, none of which depended on him for the sale.  Amityville Horror ($23 million) was a well-marketed (and surprisingly good) R-rated horror remake in a sea of PG-13 affairs and The Proposal ($33 million) was all about Sandra Bullock.  Green Lantern was a big-budget comic book epic that was all about the character and the effects, not the man behind the mask.  And while it may have bombed, it DID open with $53 million; had the film had legs, it would have been a solid hit.  His glorified cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($85 million) isn't exactly a mark for his box office prowess.  When you're dealing with 'Ryan Reynolds vehicles', The Change-Up is actually his first such film to open above $10 million.  The idea that Ryan Reynolds is all-of-the-sudden an 'I can open it by myself!' movie star is absurd, and to punish him for not achieving it, especially on a film such as this (I'll be seeing it tomorrow, but the marketing went out of its way to alienate his female fans) is just plain stupid.

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. 

Last weekend's two other releases held up fine.  The Smurfs dropped 41% in its second weekend, for a $21 million second weekend and a $76 million domestic till.  It opened overseas this weekend, raising its worldwide cum to $129 million.  My kid has lost interest in seeing it, so I will just wait until DVD.  Stupid, Crazy Love (review) dropped 36% for a new cum of $42 million.  I happen to think the film is an astonishing failure, but it does have a fan base (for a film that references Twilight in a disparaging sense, this film's relationship politics are just as ghastly).  In limited release news, Attack the Block stayed on eight measly theaters and saw its numbers drop by 44%.  Next time, BUILD on positive buzz instead of waiting for people to move on to the next big thing. Rachel Weisz's The Whistleblower opened with $8,300 per each of its seven screens, while the somewhat controversial ('It's brilliant!' 'No, it's misogynistic claptrap!') Bellflower earned $24,000 on two screens. 

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.