Friday Box Office: ‘Rise of the Apes’ Does Huge Monkey Business – $19.8M

Latest installment of primates-gone-wild series is on pace to over-perform projections by about $20M; audiences whiff on “The Change-Up”

Last Updated: August 6, 2011 @ 9:14 AM

Saturday update:

As Charlton Heston's marooned astronaut George Tayler might say, "Chalk up another victory to the human spirit!"

And chalk up another loss for pre-release tracking, with Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" opening to a much stronger than expected $19.8 millon Friday, according to studio estimates.

That puts the $93 million origins film on pace for as much as $55 million this weekend — or about $20 million more than what was expected for the seventh film in a franchise kicked off by Charlton Heston 43 years ago.

Not that this one was entirely unexpected, with critics collectively praising the James Franco-led "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" with an 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Meanwhile, Universal and Relativity's lastest attempt at the old "Freaky Friday" formula, "The Change-Up," debuted softly at $4.7 million.

The $52 million comedy — which features swingin' bachelor Ryan Reynolds switching lives with befuddled dad Jason Bateman — probably won't meet moribund pre-release forecasts in the mid-teens.

Thursday preview:

As a summer full of sequels begins to wind down, Fox will unleash the latest installment of one of the oldest film franchises of them all, opening "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" in 3,648 theaters in the U.S. and Canada Friday.

It's getting great reviews, but the box office doesn't appear ready to go bananas over a seventh "Planet of the Apes" film.

The $93 million movie was produced by former News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin, and co-financed by Fox, Dune Capital Management and Ingenious Media.

Also read: 'Planet of the Apes': Back on Track After Tim Burton's Flung-Poo Remake

Box office watchers outside the studio are calling for an opening of as much as $38 million, but Fox's more conservative estimates hover around $30 million.

Rotten Tomatoes is aggregating the movie's warm critical reception at 83 percent.

Also opening widely this weekend in 2,913 North American locations, Universal R-rated comedy "The Change-Up" seeks to take the old "Freaky Friday" concept to middle-aged dudes.

Directed by David Dobkin, and starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman — two guys who could tell you a thing or two about commercial failure over a beer sometime — "The Change-Up" will likely produce no box-office fastballs.

Pre-release estimates for the $52 million comedy, co-produced by Relativity Media, are hovering in the mid-teens.

Also read: 'The Change-Up': A Sex Comedy That Hates Sex

The strong holdover this weekend will likely be Sony's "Smurfs," which has taken in $15.5 million since Monday, easily winning the weekday box office with kids still out of school for summer break.

But the big gorilla at the weekend box office will be "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which is directed by lightly-credited director Rupert Wyatt and stars James Franco as a medical researcher whose attempt to cure Alzheimer's Disease ends up transforming apes into uber-intelligent man killers.

Andy Serkis, a specialist in portraying CG-modified characters — playing "The Lord of the Rings'" Gollum, as well as "King Kong's" lead role — takes on the top monkey in this latest Apes film and is the focus of much of the critical praise.

For its part, Fox, Wyatt and the rest of the movie's principals seem to have accomplished the job of getting everyone over 2001's Tim Burton-directed "Planet of the Apes" reboot, which grossed more than $362 million worldwide but garnered plenty of criticism along the way.

As for "The Change-Up," it arrives late in a summer box office season that's been mostly kind to R-rated comedy.

Breakout hits "The Hangover Part II" and "Bridesmaids" have received plenty of attention, but Warner's "Horrible Bosses" ($113.5 in worldwide box office) and Sony's "Bad Teacher" ($178.8 million) have done quite well for themselves, too.

Bateman also stars in "Horrible Bosses," which has to qualify as a winning streak for an actor whose, er, hit parade has included such floundering feature comedies as "Extract," "The Switch" and "Paul."

As for Ryan Reynolds, his transition into big Hollywood tentpole action hero hasn't gone without a hitch, with "Green Lantern" even meriting a shout-out at Time Warner's earnings call earlier this week.

And it wasn't the good kind.