By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Chimps reigned over humans, Smurfs and aliens at movie theaters over the weekend as "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" climbed to the top of box office charts with global ticket sales of $77.4 million.
The big-budget, effects-filled prequel to the 1968 classic film about genetically enhanced apes that launch a revolution took the top spot at U.S. and Canadian theaters with a strong $54 million in ticket sales, distributor 20th Century Fox said on Sunday.
The film starring James Franco and John Lithgow also sold $23.4 million in 25 international markets.
The U.S. and Canadian tally topped forecasts for a film that cost about $93 million to make. Positive reviews plus "ground-breaking (effects) technology" and "a very strong emotional story" drew audiences, said Chris Aronson, senior vice president for domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox.
In second place, surprise summer hit "The Smurfs" rang up $21 million domestically plus $45.2 million overseas during the weekend, far surpassing expectations for the family film about little blue cartoon characters made popular in a 1980s television show.
"Cowboys & Aliens," a big-budget sci-fi Western, finished third with $15.7 million in its second weekend in theaters, which represented a 57 percent drop from one week ago.
The weekend's other new, wide release film -- body-switching comedy "The Change-Up" -- finished fourth with domestic sales of $13.5 million, hitting the low end of estimates. The film stars Jason Bateman as a married father who swaps bodies with his single buddy played by Ryan Reynolds.
The movie resonated with women who made up 59 percent of the audience, said a spokeswoman for Universal Studios, the movie studio division of Comcast Corp that released the film. Production cost was $52 million.
"Captain America: The First Avenger," a superhero flick in its third weekend of release, finished in fifth place with $13 million domestically.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp. "The Change-Up" and "Cowboys & Aliens" were distributed by Universal Pictures, a division of Comcast Corp. The Smurfs was released by Sony Corp and "Captain America: The First Avenger" was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Mohammad Zargham)