Box office preview: Can 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' save the summer?

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Image Credit: WETA

Poor Caesar already has a lot on his plate between defending his family and community and helping the humans restore power in San Francisco. Now, he has to step up, squash the Transformers, and save the summer box office as well, which is down nearly 20 percent from last year’s record-smashing season.

It’s a good thing everyone so far seems to really like Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—the second installment in their rebooted franchise, which picks up in the world of 2011′s Rise 10 years later. As of Thursday afternoon, it had the distinction of being one of the best-reviewed blockbusters of the year with a phenomenal 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But, while Dawn should do better than the first film, saving the season might be a bit too much to ask of the Apes.

Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian put things into perspective a bit, too. “This is a more normal summer. If we weren’t comparing to the record-breaking summer of last year, it would seem like a normal type of summer with some hits and some misses,” he told EW. “But when week after week, we’re compared to the massive results from a year ago that propelled a record summer, then no question we’re going to be lagging behind.” He added: “Fast forward to next year, and this will all be a thing of the past. It’s cyclical.”

As for this weekend, here’s how things might play out:

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — $60 million
Dawn, which cost Twentieth Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment a reported $170 million to produce hits theaters Thursday night starting with 10 p.m. showings and 3,130 of the film’s 3,966 locations will be presenting the epic in 3-D. The sequel, which sees the return of Andy Serkis’s Caesar, could be headed for a $60 million (or higher) opening. The studio is sticking with a more conservative mid-to-high $50 million prediction which would be more in line with the first film’s $54.8 million August debut in 2011. But between the critical love and the holdover goodwill from the first of the rebooted series, it’s likely that it’ll be higher than that. Fandango reports that it’s already outselling Rise and represents more than 70 percent of their weekend ticket sales. EW‘s Chris Nashawaty gave the film a B+, writing that Matt Reeves’ surprisingly rollicking and resonant” film “easily tops its 2011 predecessor.”

2. Transformers: Age of Extinction — $16 million
T4 fell a hard 63 percent in weekend two and is poised for another drastic fall off as it enters its third weekend in theaters. It has already grossed over $600 million worldwide and has the distinction of being the highest grossing film in China in just 12 days of release, surpassing Avatar, the previous record-holder.

3. Tammy — $11 million
The Melissa McCarthy-led comedy will likely continue to underperform (by McCarthy standards) in weekend twodespite the fact that it has already earned more than its $20 million production budget. Rotten reviews and a C+ Cinema Score indicate that this weekend will see a dropoff in the 50+ percent range.

4. 22 Jump Street —$7 million
Sony’s 22 Jump Street, which has already earned over $163.9 million, is starting to exit theaters as it enters its fifth weekend on the market. It will probably fall in the 35 to 40 percent range.

5. Deliver Us From Evil — $5 million
Sony and Screen Gems’ $30 million horror film failed to attract a significant audience over the Fourth of July weekend and will no doubt see a huge second-week drop. Horror fans might be waiting for The Purge: Anarchy to hit theaters next weekend.

In limited release, The Weinstein Company is rolling Begin Again out to 939 theaters, Sony Classics debuts the retiree road trip pic Land Ho! in New York and Los Angeles, and IFC is releasing Richard Linklater’s Boyhood in five theaters.

Check back in this weekend for estimates and analysis.

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