Auds go ape for Disneynature's enviro-themed pic

Disneynature’s fourth enviro-themed doc, “Chimpanzee,” was among a trio of new box office entries — led by Sony-Screen Gems’ “Think Like a Man” — that outstripped even the most optimistic industry expectations during the April 20-22 frame.

For the Disney division, “Chimpanzee,” with an initial tally of $10.7 million over the sesh, became the label’s best domestic opening, topping Disneynature’s inaugural film, “Earth,” which bowed to $8.8 million over its comparable three-day weekend in 2009.

But “Earth” went out midweek — timed to coincide with Earth Day — and scored an impressive $4 million opening-day gross. In their first five days, “Earth” grossed $14.5 million vs. $12.2 million for “Chimpanzee.”

Like it did with “Earth,” Disney heavily marketed “Chimpanzee” to schools and other institutions to boost group sales. The Mouse also partnered with AMC Entertainment to screen a two-minute “making-of” trailer, which featured “Chimpanzee” directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield — the same helming pair behind “Earth.”

“Chimpanzee” bowed the same weekend as Warner Bros.’ nature doc “To the Arctic,” though that pic played at only 50 Imax locations, earning $270,228, for a per-screen average of $5,405.

As with all of its docs, Disneynature donates a portion of opening weekend grosses to a related conservationist org — for “Chimpanzee,” it’s the Jane Goodall Institute. Disney extended its “Chimpanzee” philanthropy initiative through the weekend of May 4.

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