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Box office preview: 'Sex Tape' and 'The Purge,' 'Planes' sequels to threaten 'Apes'

Last weekend may have signaled a new Dawn for the Planet of the Apes franchise, as its latest film exceeded studio and analyst expectations with a $72.6 million debut. But Caesar and the gang face some formidable cross-genre competition this weekend, when Sex Tape, The Purge: Anarchy, and Planes: Fire & Rescue all hit theaters in wide release. With a steep drop-off expected for Apes and a lack of decent horror, family, and raunchy comedy fare on the market, all are tracking pretty similarly, making this summer weekend a rare box office wild card.

Here’s how things might play out:

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'Snowpiercer's' VOD gamble is paying off

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Snowpiercer is undoubtedly one of the buzziest films of the summer season. It’s got stellar reviews, a cool underdog vibe after becoming a huge blockbuster in South Korea, and stars Captain America himself. So, how is it that two weeks after it finally hit U.S. theaters in limited release, audiences can already rent the film on VOD? Ten years ago this might have signaled a failure, but today, it’s just part of RADiUS-TWC’s distribution plan. And based on this weekend’s numbers and the fact that the pic skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot on iTunes and many other digital platforms less than a day after launching, it seems to be working.

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Box office report: 'Apes' conquers, 'Boyhood' starts strong

If this weekend’s number one movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — the second entry in the rebooted Apes franchise — has a spiritual sibling in the original series of films, it is 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. While Conquest was the fourth movie in the franchise to arrive in cinemas it is, like Dawn, the second according to the interior timeline of its series and, again like director Matt Reeves’ new film, features an apocalyptic showdown between apes and humans. Thus, it seems appropriate that this weekend Dawn of the Planet of the Apes comprehensively conquered the domestic box office by earning an estimated $73 million, exceeding both expectations and the $54.8 million opening weekend of its predecessor, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

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Box office update: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' climbs to the top of the box office

You maniacs! You made Dawn of the Planet of the Apes the most popular movie in America! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!

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

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:

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Just how bad is this summer's Hollywood box-office slump?

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In addition to its truly patriotic purpose, Independence Day weekend is typically a celebration of Hollywood bombast and spectacle, with huge CG blockbusters playing non-stop in air-conditioned multiplexes around the country. It’s often the halfway point in the year where studio executives can look at the grosses and their bottom lines, exhale, uncork a nice bottle, and think, “We’re going to be alright this year.”

Not this year.

In fact, the financial data for July 4-6 was downright terrifying. Not only were grosses down 45 percent from last year’s holiday, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, but it was Hollywood’s worst July 4 weekend since 1999. (And that’s not taking into account inflation. In fact, this was the worst July-holiday weekend for ticket sales since the summer of Dragnet in 1987.) The Melissa McCarthy comedy Tammy scored $32.9 million in its first five days—not shabby for a movie that cost only $20 million to make, but hardly a summer savior and nothing close to her last two hits, Identity Thief and The Heat. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Transformers 4' holds No. 1 spot, no fireworks for 'Tammy'

Transformers: Age of Extinction showed its summer might once more by holding onto the No. 1 spot in its second weekend of release, grossing an estimated $36.4 million from 4,233 locations and effectively shutting out the slate of new releases. Michael Bay’s explosive epic also hit $400 million internationally after just 12 days in release.

But, overall, it was a quiet holiday weekend at the box office, and the gap between 2013 and 2014 summer earnings only continues to grow. None of the week’s new releases were ever going to match last year’s Despicable Me 2 opening.

Among the weekend openers was Warner Bros.’ R-rated comedy Tammy (C+ Cinema Score), which managed to take in just $21.2 million in its first weekend in release and $32.9 million across the five-day, cooling star Melissa McCarthy’s recent box office hot streak. The second place opening isn’t a disaster by any means—the pic only cost $20 million to produce—but it also didn’t meet the studio’s modest expectations ($37 million across five days). On top of that, the lousy Cinema Score means that this one will drop hard and fast.

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Box office update: 'Transformers 4' crushes 'Tammy,' 'Earth to Echo'

Tammy is no match for the Transformers. The Melissa McCarthy comedy had a slight shot at snagging the top spot over the holiday, but the Autobots managed to stave off extinction for one more week — at least till the Apes take over next weekend.

Michael Bay’s fourth installment in the toy-based franchise pulled in an estimated $10.6 million Friday, while the R-rated Tammy (C+ Cinema Score) took in $6.44 million from 3,400 theaters. In other words, there were no box office fireworks this weekend.

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Box office preview: 'Tammy' takes on the Transformers

Melissa McCarthy’s over-the-top comedy Tammy (C+ Cinema Score) bursts into theaters this long Fourth of July weekend to challenge Michael Bay’s over-the-top Transformers: Age of Extinction for the No. 1 spot. Will Americans choose an original comedy or the latest summer blockbuster to escape the heat and barbeques? It could be close.

Also opening wide is the E.T.-like Earth to Echo (A- Cinema Score) and the horror pic Deliver Us From Evil (B- Cinema Score). It’s the rare summer weekend without any sequels or franchises, and it won’t hold a candle to the same weekend last year which saw Despicable Me 2 take in $143 million across the Wednesday to Sunday time frame.

Here’s how things might play out.

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Box office report: 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' destroys competition with $100 million

Optimus Prime is back in full force.

Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction (A- Cinema Score) earned an estimated $100 million across the weekend, making it the top debut of the year. It’s also a career high for star Mark Wahlberg, who leads a new cast in telling the story of what happened five years after Chicago was nearly destroyed in the last film.

Paramount’s $200 million film may not have charmed the critics, but audiences didn’t seem to take that, or the daunting run time, into account this weekend. Moviegoers were predominately male, accounting for 64 percent of audiences. Also of note: IMAX screens made up $10.7 million of the weekend grosses.

But, the domestic business isn’t the only good news. READ FULL STORY

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