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'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Scores Big With $54 Mil Opening

Fueled by great word of mouth, 20th Century Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes opened to $54 million at the domestic box office—$20 million more than the best forecast. The pic easily placed No. 1.

Overseas, the prequel also exceeded expectations, grossing a stellar $23.4 million from 25 territories, including only four major markets, Australia, Spain, Russia and Taiwan, where it came in No. 1

Rise of the Apes is particularly drawing notice for its photo-realistic apes, which were created by Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital using advanced performance capture technology. Andy Serkis plays the ape Caesar, and is the movie’s lead character.

"The combination of never-before-seen special effects combined with a powerful, emotional story made for a supremely satisfying epxerience at the movies," Fox senior vice president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson said.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Rise of the Apes successfully relaunches the cult sci-fi franchise, and is a big win for the filmmakers and Fox’s marketing operation. Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested that the movie—also starring James Franco, Frida Pinto and John Lithgow--would open to $30 million to $35 million, tops.

But the movie took on a life of its own when receiving an A- CinemaScore, in addition to rave reviews. Exit polls showed the movie appealing to all age groups, including younger audience members who don't remember the franchise. More women than expected turned out, making up 46 percent of the audience. The origins pic was down 2% from Friday to Saturday, pointing to the pic's growing buzz.

Rise of the Apes also is a big win for Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark’s Chernin Entertainment, since it’s the company’s first title.

"We're thrilled to launch Chernin Entertainment with a film that so positively resonated with audiences We're proud of the artistic achievement of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, as it is a testament to a smart script, great direction by Rupert Wyatt, stellar actor performances, the amazing visual effects created by the Weta team and the passion and dedication of the entire crew and our partners at 20th Century Fox," Chernin and Clark said in a statement.

The movie, made for $93 million, was co-financed by Fox, Dune Entertainment and Ingenious.

The weekend's other new offering, Universal's R-rated Ryan Reynolds-Jason Bateman body switching comedy The Change-Up, didn’t fare as well, grossing a soft $13.5 million and coming in No. 4.

Directed by David Dobkins, Change-Up entered a saturated market for raunchy comedies, and scored the lowest opening of the summer for its genre. The movie only received a B CinemaScore, and played older, with 50% of the audience over the age of 30.

Universal and Relativity Media co-financed Change-Up, which cost $52 million to produce.

Sony’s surprise hit The Smurfs stayed strong in its second weekend, declining less than 42% to an estimated $21 million for a domestic cume of $76.2 million. The 3D kids pic placed No. 2.

Smurfs began rolling out in earnest at the international box office over the weekend, grossing an impressive $45.2 million from 30 territories, including Mexico, Brazil, France and Germany, for a foreign cume of $52.7 million and worldwide total of $128.9 million.

Universal and DreamWorks’ Cowboys & Aliens continued to struggle in its second outing, trailing Smurfs and grossing $15.8 million for a domestic total of $67.4 million. The movie fell 57%, a big drop considering the film is playing best to an older audience. Adult-skewing films generally build momentum, and see minimal drops if they are working.

Peter Oberth
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