The war for the weekend box office is between ape and arachnid.
And it could be a tight one. “War for the Planet of the Apes,” from Fox and Chernin Entertainment, is tracking solidly in the $60 million to $65 million range for its opening frame. That’s about in line with what other “Apes” movies have done in the past — 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was lower with $54.8 million, while 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” made a bit more with $72.6 million at the domestic box office.
That said, the latest “Apes” movie’s projected opening is still only a bit more than half of what “Spider-Man: Homecoming” made last weekend when it scored $117 million domestically. A huge blockbuster like “Homecoming” typically experiences a steep drop-off during its second week. But time will tells how much the positive reviews and word of mouth can keep “Homecoming” from falling. If it drops off by 60%, which would not be unusual, it will most likely land firmly in second with around $47 million. But a strong hold like the one “Wonder Woman” saw this summer in its second weekend (43%) could put Spidey neck and neck with the newcomer. (Granted, it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison — for one, “Wonder Woman” made about $15 million less than “Homecoming” during its first weekend.)
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” which depicts the titular war between apes and humans, is the latest in the franchise to receive rave reviews — it currently has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. That critical clout sets its apart from other franchise films that have struggled or tanked so far this season, leaving the overall summer box office down about 9% from last year. The film, directed by “Dawn” helmer Matt Reeves, serves as a sequel to the aforementioned releases in 2011 and 2014. Much has been made of the updates in technology that have gone into bring Andy Serkis’ character Caesar, the lead ape, to life. Woody Harrelson, in human form, joins the franchise as the villain, while Steve Zahn, as a chimp, offers comic relief.
Otherwise, the heavyweights look to mostly crowd out room for fellow newcomer “Wish Upon” to make a substantial splash. The horror film, from Broad Green Pictures and Orion Pictures, is aiming in the high single digits from 2,100 locations. The fright-fest is directed by John R. Leonetti based on a script by Barbara Marshall. Its primarily young cast, led by Joey King, includes two Netflix alums in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s” Ki Hong Lee (aka Dong), and “Stranger Things'” beloved Barb, Shannon Purser.
Meanwhile, don’t count out indie darling “The Big Sick,” which is expanding to wide release after three weekends of strong limited release screenings. Its lead and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani sent out a heartfelt string of tweets on Wednesday, sharing anecdotes about his emotional journey promoting the romantic comedy, and imploring fans to keep buying tickets.