Dawn of the Planet of the

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is looking to apply some simian spark to a summer that is flaming out at its midpoint.

Though the film doesn’t bow for another week, its prospects already look bright. Trailers, posters and promotional materials for the sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” have captured the moviegoers’ imaginations and most analysts believe the latest primate adventure will have no trouble eclipsing the most recent film’s $54.8 million opening.

BoxOffice.com currently predicts a debut of $68 million, although studio executives say it’s too early to offer a projection.

“It’s an excellent film and many people think it’s better than the first one, which is quite achievement,” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox.  “There’s a lot of goodwill for the property.”

The last “Apes” film grossed nearly $500 million at the worldwide box office and “Dawn” could have the buzz to swing passed it.

The lack of competition may also work out in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'” favor. The film opens in the middle of July and the only other major big-budget release coming is “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which doesn’t hit until three weeks later. Other upcoming releases such as the R-rated comedy “Sex Tape” and the violent revenge thriller “Lucy” seem to lack its broad appeal. That justifies Fox’s decision to launch this “Apes” in July as opposed to August, when the last film was released.

“It has a pretty good runway,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners.  “Fox likely thought it could do a bit better earlier in the summer, because business tapers off a bit come August.”

One thing that can be predicted with certainty, after more than four decades and umpteenth reboots, rehashes and re-imaginings, the “Planet of the Apes” series will cross the $1 billion mark with the release of the latest sequel. As it stands, the seven previous films in the series have collected $926.5 million in ticket receipts.

The new film will do so by appealing to teenagers without neglecting older crowds who may feel undernourished by summer popcorn movies. Central to that effort will be reviews, and there, critics have extended a helping hand. Their embrace was central to the breakout success of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” with the film even ending up on several “10 best” lists.

Although many reviewers have yet to weigh in, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” currently holds an 92% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes with Variety‘s Guy Lodge calling it “spectacular” and an improvement on its predecessor.

Fanboys also loved the film, with the likes of HitFix’s Drew McWeeny and Collider’s Steven Weintraub throwing out descriptors like “awesome” and “brilliant.”

The reaction is impressive given that the studio and the filmmakers were not overly precious about what made “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” work, swapping director Rupert Wyatt (“The Escapist”) for Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”), while jettisoning most of the cast save for motion capture maestro Andy Serkis. The bleak setting and global pandemic backdrop remain, but the characters are new.

Playing up the post-apocalyptic San Francisco setting in trailers and highlighting an arresting image of an ape with war paint in its promotional art, the marketing for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has been sterling and surprisingly fresh.

“Other films have seemed cookie cutter and this is different and has been marketed differently,” said Bruce Nash, founder of the box office tracking site the Numbers. “It’s not just another ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Transformers’ or ‘Godzilla.'”

That sense of deja vu has led to a dispiriting summer at the multiplexes. Major films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men:Days of Future Past” and “Godzilla” have put up robust numbers, but they’ve been dwarfed by last summer’s record-breaking run of “Iron Man 3,” “Despicable Me 2″ and “Man of Steel.” Overall the summer box office is down nearly 15%.

But Fox isn’t looking in the rear view mirror. In fact, the studio already has  another “Apes” slated for 2016.

“This is one franchise that’s going to be around for a long time,” predicted Aronson.

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