Andy Serkis as Caesar in 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'
Fox Andy Serkis as Caesar in 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

With summer grosses in a downward spiral, partly due to the releases' appeal this year but also because of intense World Cup competition, much hope had been extended to this weekend's opening of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (20th Century Fox) to turn things around. Though "Dawn" had a strong opening, with no other new films and last weekend's three already having come in below expectations, it was unreasonable to expect one film could turn the ship around. That said, the $135 million Top 10 total once again is a big fall from last year's $184 million.

The standout news of the week comes from Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," which grossed $359,000 in 5 theaters for a per screen average of $71,800.

The grosses:

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A-;  Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 79
   $73,000,000 in 3,967 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $18,432; Cumulative: $73,000,000
2. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount) Week 3 - Last weekend #1
   $16,500,000 (-55%) in 3,913 theaters (-320); PSA: $4,217; Cumulative: $209,031,000
3. Tammy (Warner Bros.) Week 2 - Last weekend #2
   $12,910,000 (-40%) in 3,465 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $3,726; Cumulative: $57,354,000
4. 22 Jump Street (Sony) Week 5 - Last weekend #3
   $6,700,000 (-32%) in 2,811 theaters (-513); PSA: $2,383; Cumulative: $171,961,000
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox) Week 5 - Last weekend #5
   $5,865,000 (-35%) in 2,885 theaters (-412); PSA: $2,033; Cumulative: $152,068,000
6. Earth to Echo (Relativity) Week 2 - Last weekend #6
   $5,500,000 (-34%) in 3,230 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,703; Cumulative: $24,597,000
7. Deliver Us from Evil (Sony) Week 5 - Last weekend #4
   $4,700,000 (-52%) in 3,049 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,541; Cumulative: $25,002,000
8. Maleficent (Buena Vista) Week 7 - Last weekend #7
   $4,169,000 (-32%) in 2,077 theaters (-312); PSA: $2,007; Cumulative: $221,994,000
9. Begin Again (Weinstein) Week 3 - Last weekend #15
   $2,935,000 (+134%) in 939 theaters (+764); PSA: $3,126; Cumulative: $5,286,000
10. Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.) Week 4 - Last weekend #8
   $2,510,000 (-51%) in 1,968 theaters (-662); PSA: $; Cumulative: $41,705,000

The Takeaways:

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" continues trend of smart franchise creative choices
The second film in the second reboot of the original series (third if one includes the TV show) opened 33% better than 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." It needed to (aided by 3D this time around) -- the film cost nearly double the previous one. Although many of the creative team repeated, the humans were recast, the title suggested a new start and most importantly an up and coming director, Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield" and "Let Me In") was brought on board. Though some tentpoles stay with the tried and true (see under Michael Bay's "Transformers"), it has become increasingly common for studios to reach out to promising younger talent to bring some freshness to their big budget efforts. This year has already seen the Russo Brothers ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), Marc Webb (continuing with the "Amazing Spider-Man" series) and Gareth Edwards ("Godzilla") enhance the inherent appeal of their films with at least some degree of creative originality more than what is assumed from these films. "Dawn" actually received the best reviews of any new wide release film this summer. That this opened up to an improved number despite the lengthy history of these films suggests Fox and producer Peter Chernin made the right choice.

The film filled the mid-July slot that in recent years has showcased some smart (mainly comic-based) high-cost films that have thrived, including both "Dark Knight" films and "Captain America." "Ant-Man" has claimed the date for next year.

Once again, Andy Serkis - a mainstay in many prime actors playing non-human roles ("Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit, "King Kong," as well as the previous "Apes" and appearances in the upcoming "Avengers" and "Star Wars" films) is getting the kind of reviews that most actors would kill for, though still with little chance at awards attention. Maybe an honorary one some day?

Is there a negative? Saturday was down eight-percent from Friday's number (which included strong Thursday evening grosses), compared to "Dawn" (which also had preview shows) dropping 1% its second day. But this sort of second day fall has been common this summer.
This latest success from Fox propelled them into becoming the first studio with a domestic gross of $1 billion this year.

"Transformers" continues its domestic lag while soaring worldwide, yet still looks like summer's biggest gross.
Before this weekend foreign numbers are reported, Michael Bay's fourth franchise effort already has passed $750 million worldwide, even more impressive despite it opening against the World Cup (the lack of other new films though helped its cause). But it is the weakest in domestic take, with its third weekend 55% drop and $209 million total falling far short of where the the three previous films stood after their third weekends (in order from the first film, $263, $339 and $302 million respectively). It appears likely to be the best grossing film of the year so far, but should fall short of $300 million, making this the first summer since 2001 (unless something yet to be released or "Dawn" holds on extraordinarily well) not to have at least one film reach that level, despite many of those years having much lower ticket prices and/or no 3D/IMAX surcharges to help.