Can 'Apes' morph into a summer classic?
After some not insignificant pre-release skepticism, James Franco's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" has captivated us pretty nicely -- a stellar opening weekend (the fifth-highest ever in August) and some solid momentum throughout the week (it took in nearly $7 million on Tuesday alone).
But is just one good performer among many or something more enduring?
This weekend will clarify the picture a bit, at least from a box-office standpoint. With word of mouth solid -- and a large number of new movies to fragment the audience -- "Apes" is likely to hold the top spot again, as my colleague Amy Kaufman writes.
That in and of itself is an achievement: Only two other action movies have done that this summer ("Transformers" and "Thor").
At this pace, Rupert Wyatt's movie will cross the $100-million threshold sometime on Saturday, just nine days into its release, before closing the weekend with an estimated cumulative total of $105 million to $110 million.
That's solid enough, but how does it stack up to other summer breakouts?
It's certainly ahead of some summer sleepers, such as "The Proposal," an entry in an admittedly different genre that muscled up $163 million in 2009 but hadn't even gotten to $70 million by the end of its second weekend.
"Apes" doesn't, on the other hand, quite measure up to a bona fide summer classic, like last year's "Inception." But surprisingly, it's not that far off either -- that movie had hit $129 million by its second Saturday, on its way to nearly $300 million in domestic box office.
There's almost no chance for "Apes" to hit that figure, but it should eventually crack the $150-million mark and could start creeping toward $200 million when all is said and done, especially as studio releases get more sparse later in August.
And then, of course, there's the inevitable sequel and larger cultural impact (check out these all-time best "Apes" parodies recently posted by Slate) -- all of which is pretty impressive for a prequel that had many scratching their heads just a few months ago.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: James Franco in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Credit: 20th Century Fox