Box Office: 'Apes' swings to top spot while 'Change-Up' hangs low [Updated]
A band of riotous simians reigned supreme this weekend, as ticket sales for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" far exceeded industry expectations and led the film to the top spot at the box office.
The film, a prequel to the 1968 classic that stars James Franco and a handful of digitalized apes, grossed a strong $54 million domestically, according to an estimate from distributor 20th Century Fox. Heading into the weekend, those who had seen pre-release audience surveys had projected that the film would collect around $35 million.
Unfortunately for Universal Pictures, the weekend's other new film in wide release, R-rated comedy "The Change-Up," performed about as expected: pretty badly. The movie, about two buddies played by Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman who wake up to find themselves in the other's body, mustered a weak $13.5 million.
The solid start for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is good news for Peter Chernin, the former president of Fox's parent company, News Corp. In 2009, the executive left his post as Ruper Murdoch's top lieutenant to launch his own entertainment company -- and "Apes" is the first movie the new entity has produced. The movie, which depicts how apes acquired excessive intelligence to take over Earth, was financed by Fox and partners Dune Capital Management and Ingenious Media for $93 million.
Also positive is that both critics and audiences seemed to love the movie. The big-budget film received surprisingly strong reviews, earning an 81% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and went over well with crowds this weekend. Those who saw the movie assigned it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The audience was slightly more male than female, with 54% of the crowd comprised of men.
After the original series of five "Apes" films came to a close in 1973, Fox relaunched the brand again in 2001 with a Tim Burton-directed version of "Planet of the Apes." The movie was disliked by critics but still did good business. A decade ago, the film had an even bigger opening weekend than the latest "Apes" movie, debuting to $68.5 million and ultimately grossing $362.2 million worldwide.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" also opened overseas in 26 foreign markets this weekend, where it raked in a decent $23.4 million.
The raunchy comedy "The Change-Up" was one of its genre to not find success at the box office this summer. Audiences have embraced recent R-rated comedies such as "Bad Teacher," "Bridesmaids" and "Horrible Bosses," all of which opened to about $10 million more than "Change-Up." Those films were also less expensive to produce, as Universal and Relativity Media spent about $52 million to make the picture -- a higher-than-average budget for a comedy.
While most critics seemed to loathe the movie, audiences didn't, giving it an average grade of B. About half the crowd was under the age of 30, and 59% was female. Some of those young female moviegoers may have shown up to see one of the movie's attractive leading man, Reynolds, who has had a rough go of it at the box office this summer. The lackluster opening for "The Change-Up" marks the star's second disappointing opening in recent months, after his turn as a superhero in "The Green Lantern" was also a letdown. That movie, which cost about $200 million to produce, has grossed $154.6 million worldwide since its release in June.
Meanwhile, there was even more disheartening news for Universal. "Cowboys & Aliens," which was produced by the studio along with DreamWorks SKG and Relativity Media for around $163 million, saw its ticket sales drop 57% to $15.8 million during it second week in release. The film has now grossed $67.4 million domestically after debuting last weekend to a soft $36.4 million. And if this weekend is any indication, the sci-fi western does not seem to be generating strong word-of-mouth.
"The Smurfs," on the other hand, continues to prove its strength at the box office. After nearly topping "Cowboys" upon its opening last weekend, the 3-D film added $21 million to its tally, which now stands at $76.2 million. The film is also performing solidly abroad, where it has already raked in $52.7 million in 29 countries.
[Updated, 12:10 p.m. Aug. 7: Those who feared the strength of "Captain America" would not extend beyond the domestic box office were wrong. The film starring the Marvel Comics superhero is faring well overseas, this weekend crossing the $100-million mark abroad. The film, which is playing in 41 foreign markets, added $27.5 to its international tally, which now stands at $103 million. Still, the film has a mighty way to go before it reaches the heights that "Thor" has abroad. That Paramount/Marvel collaboration, also based on a comic book, has racked up $267.2 million overseas since its release in May.
Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:
2. "The Smurfs" (Sony): $21 million on its second weekend, down 41%. $45.2 million overseas in 42 foreign markets. Domestic total: $76.2 million. International total: $52.8 million.
3. "Cowboys & Aliens" (Universal/Relativity/DreamWorks): $15.7 million on its second weekend, down 57%. Domestic total: $67.4 million.
4. "The Change-Up" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $13.5 million.
5. "Captain America: The First Avenger" (Paramount/Marvel): $13 million on its third weekend, down 49%. $27.5 million overseas in 41 foreign markets. Domestic total: $143.2 million. International total: $103 million.
6. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" (Warner Bros.): $12.2 million on its fourth weekend, down 45%. $61.8 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. Domestic total: $342.8 million. International total: $791.1 million.
7. "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (Warner Bros.): $12.1 million on its second weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $42.2 million.
8. "Friends with Benefits" (Sony): $4.7 million on its third weekend, down 49%. $1.9 million overseas in nine foreign markets. Domestic total: $48.5 million. International total: $7.7 million.
9. "Horrible Bosses" (Warner Bros.): $4.6 million on its fifth weekend, down 36%. $7.7 million overseas in 32 foreign markets. Domestic total: $105.2 million. International total: $24.9 million.
10. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (Paramount): $3 million on its sixth weekend, down 50%. $17.5 million overseas in 62 foreign markets. Domestic total: $344.2 million. International total: $693.5 million.]
-- Amy Kaufman
Photos, from top: A digitally created ape in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"; Jason Bateman, left, stars with Ryan Reynolds in "The Change-Up." Credits: 20th Century Fox; Universal Pictures