The sequel to the well-received 2011 reboot will benefit from a lack of competition at the multiplexes en route to an opening in the $60 million range when it debuts across 3,966 locations this weekend. Twentieth Century Fox, which is producing the $170 million picture along with Chernin Entertainment, is being more conservative and pegging a debut in the mid to high $50 million zone.
Its predecessor, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” bowed to $54.8 million when it debuted in 2011, a figure the new film seems likely to pass. Fandango reports that “Dawn” is outpacing the earlier apes picture at a similar point in its sales cycle and is responsible for 70% of weekend pre-sales.
The apes sequel is being bolstered by superb reviews and residual good will for its predecessor. Without any other fresh wide releases to be found, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” will square off against “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which dropped sharply last weekend, falling 63% from its opening. Analysts expect it will fall more than 50% in its third weekend in theaters.
“People really liked the first movie and it had great staying power,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s a soft marketplace with ‘Transformers’ slowing down faster than expected, so that works in its favor.”
The latest film finds the human survivors of a global pandemic forced into confrontation with the genetically evolved apes. The Bay Area is a casualty of the post-apocalyptic clash of the primates with San Francisco getting to the full urban decay experience.
When it came to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the studio wasn’t overly precious with what worked before, sliding Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) into the director’s chair in place of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” filmmaker Rupert Wyatt and jettisoning much of the original cast (so long James Franco). Only Andy Serkis who motion-captured his way toward Oscar buzz playing Caesar, the apes’ leader, remains.
It worked. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” currently holds a 98% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the kind of critical embrace that could help it appeal to adult crowds who may have been turned off by the influx of web spinners, mutant heroes and battling robots into movie theaters.
“The older audiences will keep it afloat and when you look at the release schedule, it could float all the way to August,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations.
Indeed, the rest of the summer lineup is looking scrawny. The revenge pic “Lucy” has good buzz and “Sex Tape” could recapture Cameron Diaz’s “Bad Teacher” magic, but only “Guardians of the Galaxy” sports blockbuster muscle. Even that film comes with a caveat: the band of interstellar heroes lack the brand recognition of a Captain America or Spider-Man. All told summer is down roughly 20% from last year and most analysts expect it will continue to lag behind 2013’s record-breaking numbers this weekend.
During the same period last year, “Grown Ups 2″ and “Pacific Rim” bowed in theaters and “Despicable Me 2″ continued to draw crowds, driving the Stateside box office to nearly $200 million in stateside ticket receipts.
There are also a handful of limited releases hitting theaters this weekend, most notably IFC’s “Boyhood.” The Richard Linklater film has earned critical raves and traces the development of a young man over 12 years, proving that good things happen to those directors who wait a really long time. It opens in five screens in New York and Los Angeles.