By Anthony D'Alessandro | Thompson on Hollywood August 7, 2011 at 4:35AM
Truth is, Fox did not know what a powerful box office contender it had in prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, waiting to screen the film until the last minute when the film's astonishing VFX were final. Then the good word exploded, and the movie scored a rousing $54 million opening weekend. Anthony D'Alessandro digs into the numbers.
Fox executives had every reason to beat their chests this morning as Rise of the Planet of the Apes greatly exceeded expectations with $54 million. Meanwhile Universal suits saw yet another summer entry disappoint, as R-rated guy comedy The Change-Up followed last weekend's Cowboys & Aliens with a dispiriting $13.5 million opening.
Fox did smartly move up the release date for Rise of the Planet of the Apes from November to the first weekend of August hotspot. When the studio first announced the Apes prequel back in May 2010 with a June 2011 release, it smelled like another quickie cookie-cutter franchise installment in the spirit of 2008’s ill-fated The X-Files: I Want to Believe ($21 million domestic B.O.). There was a similar 10-year lag between Apes chapters, begging the question – are there even any Apes fans around? Even worse, there was no high-gloss director or star (such as Tim Burton or Mark Wahlberg) attached to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Back in 2001 Burton's Planet of the Apes scored the second highest three-day opening of all-time with $68.5 million, filing behind The Lost World: Jurassic Park's $72.1 million. Despite that success, Burton told a U.K. journal after its release that he would rather "jump out a window. I swear to God," then deal with Fox's cooks-in-the-kitchen development process. Casting more gloom over Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the lackluster trailer Fox dropped in April prompting fan gripes over the film’s cheesy lines and Congo-level effects.
Backed by financiers Dune Capital Management and Ingenious Media, Fox turned the movie around at the last minute, making a splash at July's Comic-Con and grabbing rave reviews for its character-driven, emotional story and visual spectacle as heralded by (Time’s Richard Corliss). Suddenly the movie turned into a franchise entry more along the lines of Batman Begins in the Dark Knight’s canon. Positive word-of-mouth spread faster than monkeys jumping from trees throughout the weekend as Rise of the Planet of the Apes remained even between Friday and Saturday with roughly $19 million daily and an A- Cinemascore. Men dominated at 54% with an overall crowd 25+ crowd at 59%.
Where was the love for The Change-Up? As Universal placed promos for the edgy comedy on the hip summer comedies Horrible Bosses and Crazy Stupid Love, Change-Up was on core audiences’ radar. Again, like last weekend’s also-ran Cowboys & Aliens, blame the genre more than the stars. Character switcheroo comedies -- whether it’s an old and young person switching bodies or the battle of the sexes -- have always been a bastard at the box office, from Blake Edwards’ 1991 Switch ($15.5 million) to 17 Again ($64.2 million). The only title in its genre that remains a sleeper classic is 1988’s Big ($115 million) with Tom Hanks. Otherwise, no literary agent in town should sell their soul to shepherd a switcheroo comedy.
Despite the skilled comic timing of Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, you could have cast Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in Change-Up and it would still fail. Relativity co-financed the comedy for $52 million. While Universal was aiming at the guys, the movie played better among women, at 59%, with an even split under/over 30 years of age. Cinemascore is a B. Unfortunately, women read reviews, which are written mainly by men. The Tomatometer was a dismal 20%.
Top Ten Box Office Chart:
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Fox) $54 million in its first weekend at 3,648 theaters. $14,803 theater average. Domestic total: $54 million.
2. Smurfs (Sony) $21 million down 41% in its second week at 3,395 theaters. $6,186 theater average. Domestic total: $76.2 million.
3.Cowboys and Aliens (Universal/DreamWorks-Relativity) $15.8 million down 57% in its second weekend at 3,754 theaters. $4,195 theater average. Domestic total: $67.4 million.
4. The Change-Up (Universal) $13.5 million in its first weekend at 2,913 theaters. $4635 theater average. Domestic total: $13.5 million.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger $13 million down 49% in its third weekend at 3,620 theaters. $3,591 theater average. Domestic total: $143.2 million.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 $12.163 million down 45% in its fourth weekend at 3,175 theaters. $3,830 theater average. Domestic total: $342.8 million.
7. Crazy, Stupid, Love $12.1 million down 37% in its second weekend at 3,020 theaters. $4,007 theater average. Domestic total: $42.2 million.
8. Friends With Benefits (Sony/Screen Gems) $4.7 million down 49% in its third weekend at 2,398 theaters. $x theater average. Domestic total: $48.5 million.
9. Horrible Bosses (WB/New Line) $4.6 million down 36% in its fifth weekend at 2,025 theaters. $2,281 theater average. Domestic total: $105.2 million.
10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon $3.0 million down 51% in its sixth weekend at 1,854 theaters. $1,626 theater average. Domestic total: $344.2 million.