By Gabe Toro | The Playlist August 7, 2011 at 4:33AM
“The Planet Of The Apes” saga is one of the healthier franchises in movie history. All the sequels occurred within a reasonable time frame, and while they were of varied quality, each one had their own separate reason to exist, and none were truly embarrassing. By comparison, the remake in 2001 was so far removed from the series’ original ethos that most won’t even acknowledge it as part of any continuity. Nevertheless, that atrocity opened to $68 million, which nears $100 million when adjusted for inflation. So while some may have been burned by the series thanks to Tim Burton, ten years might have been the appropriate time to reboot and still retain a base that remains aware of “The Planet of The Apes” as a sketchy form of “cinema history.”
Besides that, there isn’t a whole lot of precedence for a big budget prequel to a forty-three year old movie breaking the bank, particularly considering the film’s development. From a distance, “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” looked like more Fox blockbuster dead weight. They had drastically reworked a well-liked script by Scott Frank, changed titles and release dates, and completed a quick shoot with a cast that felt less like an ensemble and more like a Who’s Available casting sheet. Regardless, Andy Serkis and the effects team became the star, and the CGI-assisted ape violence in ads helped generate a spectacular $54 million opening.
Where does Fox go from here? Even with Burton’s “Apes” revival scoring off-the-charts numbers, the public perception was so negative that it jettisoned plans for another go-round. This adventure benefits not only from a much lower cost than that debacle, but from very strong word-of-mouth and critic notices. Then again, it could be a very specific fan base -- the Burton version fell a then-spectacular 60% in its second weekend. There's no sequel development that's been made public, though you have to wonder if Fox is considering further adventures of Caesar, considering industry projections pegged this weekend as possibly being $15 million lower. As for star James Franco, you can bet this weekend enables hundreds more avant-garde art projects from the multi-hyphenate.
Landing in second was "The Smurfs," which lost the battle for the top last weekend but still held far better than main competitor "Cowboys And Aliens." "Smurfs" was a bit more front-loaded than the usual kiddie fare with a somewhat weaker hold, but "Aliens" was a disaster, an Area 51-level drop putting the film's total at a feeble $67 million after two weekends. The Jon Favreau genre mash-up could hold up over the next few weeks (the rest of August looks like a slightly-beefier April, to be honest), but nobody is pleased with these results thus far. Meanwhile, "Smurfs" has clear sailing to a stronger-than-$100 million final tally, with massive ancillary profits to come. Both were slightly youth-centric films, but "Cowboys And Aliens" stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford might as well be geriatrics going up against those cute, cuddly CGI critters. Kids don't want to see old people (cue: "Death Of Modern Masculinity In American Cinema" thesis) and they especially don't want to see them riding horses in the Old West. If only this had cost half as much, it would be a tremendous win.
Consider this the summer Hollywood's booming voice asked, "Citizens, is Ryan Reynolds a movie star?" The response looks like a negative, with "The Change-Up" registering as his second straight huge flop after "Green Lantern" could barely cross $150 million worldwide. As the fifth R-rated summer comedy thus far, this gross is about half of what "Bridesmaids" opened with, and that was the weakest first session of a group that includes "Bad Teacher," "Horrible Bosses," "The Hangover Part II" and "Friends With Benefits." Universal spent a heavy chunk of change producing and promoting this film, praising it as a completely in-house venture and a re-teaming of the people behind "The Wedding Crashers" and "The Hangover," ignoring the fact that so many people were involved with those films that alchemy basically made them hits.
What went wrong with "The Change-Up"? Despite two good-looking leads, there was no crossover potential to women given that the trailer relied heavily on the shock that women had bowel movements. The leading man issue also stands out, as Reynolds success thus far has been with female audiences, making his presence in a male-driven affair dubious at best. And Jason Bateman's Q-rating post-"Arrested Development" is a testament to his ubiquity more than his taste in projects or general audience support, as his only non-ensemble starring roles were in "The Switch" and "Extract," which audiences ignored. Maybe it was the body-swapping idea, which tends to pass muster with only teen and tween audiences. Maybe it was the generic title, which made it sound like it was a baseball movie. The print and billboard ads didn't help, with Reynolds smiling like a jackass while fondling barely-clad women. Audiences don't want to see their leading characters having TOO much fun.
"Captain America: The First Avenger" continues to keep pace with "Thor." With 2013 bringing "Thor 2" and "Iron Man 3" however, they may not be any more room in the Marvel stable in the near future for another Cap adventure, at least unless they want to launch newer solo characters. It stays ahead of "Harry Potter," which is slated to become the year's biggest domestic earner by tomorrow, though it's already the largest global 2011 release thus far. "Crazy Stupid Love" registered the strongest weekend-to-weekend hold of any release in the top ten. But with "The Help" and "One Day" coming in the next few weeks, the marketplace will be slightly crowded for adult fare, but as long as they didn't blow the budget on school assembly rooms, backyards and Ryan Gosling's washboard abs, they'll be fine.
"Friends With Benefits" is now officially the "Volcano" to "No Strings Attached"'s "Dante's Peak." Smooth, Screen Gems. The R-rated comedy is just barely keeping ahead of "Horrible Bosses," which crossed $100 million this week. Both continue to keep "Transformers" at bay. As we all should. As we all should.
In indie releases, "Sarah's Key" registered a muscular third weekend gross of $532k for The Weinstein Company. Last weekend's big releases continued to perform, with "The Guard" at $194k at nineteen locations, while "Attack The Block" stayed at only eight engagements, collecting $78k. The week's biggest opening per-screen was "Bellflower," which collected $24k on two screens, with a much larger expansion in the works. Collecting $58k, but on seven screens, was "The Whistleblower," while "Gun Hill Road" landed at $38k at three locations, and the five hour "Mysteries Of Lisbon" grossed $11.5k at two locations. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. High Rise Of The Planet of The Apes (Fox) - $54 million
2. The Smurfs (Sony) - $21 million ($76 mil. domestic)
3. Cowboys And Aliens Living Together, Mass Hysteria (Universal) - $15.7 million ($67 mil. domestic)
4. Two Nearly Identical Caucasian Males Switch Places (Universal) - $13.5 million
5. Captain America: The Avengers Issue 0 (Paramount) - $13 million ($143 mil. domestic)
6. Harry Potter Fights That Noseless Dude Again (Warner Bros.) - $12.2 million ($343 million domestic)
7. Crazy Stupid Love (Warner Bros.) - $12.1 million ($42 mil. domestic)
8. Friends With Benefits Attached (Sony/Screen Gems) - $4.7 million ($48 mil. domestic)
9. Inferior Employers (Warner Bros.) - $4.6 million ($105 mil. domestic)
10. Transformers: You Encouraged Them (Paramount) - $3 million ($344 mil.)