‘Planet of the Apes’ Goes Bananas at Box Office and Hollywood Exhales

Sci-fi sequel’s $27 million Friday gives it a shot at $70 million for weekend and dispels fears summer slump will worsen

That whooshing sound you hear might be Hollywood exhaling, after “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” opened to a strong $27.7 million on Friday.

That puts the sci-fi sequel on pace for a weekend in the $70 million range, well ahead of the projections of analysts and Fox, which is distributing the Chernin Entertainment production. It will end the two-week reign of Paramount’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which was a distant second Friday and is looking at a roughly $16 million third week.

The strong showing by “Apes” is a relief because the summer box office, down nearly 20 percent, could use a lift. This won’t turn it around, since the weekend is still off roughly 24 percent from last year’s comparable frame. But the better-than-expected debut dispels concerns that the box office could be in a free-fall after the dismal July 4 weekend, the worst since 1999.

Also read: Why Hollywood Isn’t Really Sweating Summer Slump at Box Office

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is pacing well ahead of the previous film in the franchise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” That one brought in $19.5 million on its first day and finished with a $54.8 million opening weekend in August of 2011. It went on to total $176.7 million domestically and $305 million overseas.

“Rise” cost under $100 million to make, however, and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is considerably more expensive at $170 million. But with the addition of 3D and the expansion of the foreign market, Fox is banking on “Dawn” to out-gross its predecessor overseas.

The Matt Reeves-directed sequel of the franchise reboot stars Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell as humans battling apes and their leader, Caesar, played by motion capture pioneer Andy Serkis. First-night audiences gave it an “A-” CinemaScore, in line with the critics who have it at 90 percent positive on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

Also read: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Reviews: Does This Sequel ‘Rise’ Above Its Predecessor?

The Friday haul for the PG-13-rated “Apes” included $4.1 million in Thursday night showings and came from a market-high 3,967 theaters. It benefited from 3D and Premium Large Format theaters, but it wasn’t in IMAX theaters, which are showing Paramount’s “Transformers.”

The $4.9 million Friday for “Transformers” was a 54 percent drop from last Friday, and the morphing toy-bot epic will pass $200 million domestically this weekend. That’s less than half its foreign total, which is more than $435 million, and well under the $231 million that the Chinese co-production has grossed in China.

Melissa McCarthy’s “Tammy” ran third on Friday with about $4 million. That’s just a 37 percent drop for the R-rated comedy from Warner Bros., and means it will come in with around $13 million for the three days and lift its domestic total to around $57 million.

See video: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Boyhood’ Trailer Mashup Is ‘a Masterpiece’ 

Another of last week’s openers, the kids film “Earth to Echo,” was fifth on Friday with $1.7 million and is looking at a $5.7 million three-day total for distributor Relativity. It was behind long-playing “22 Jump Street,” which is on pace for a $6 million fifth week after taking in roughly $2 million Friday. The Channing Tatum-Jonah Hill comedy will top $170 million domestically for Sony this weekend.

Another fifth-week holdover, “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” was sixth with $1.7 million Friday and will come in at around $5.6 for the weekend, which will lift the domestic total for the Fox-distributed Dreamworks Animation kids film to more than $150 million. It just beat out “Deliver Us From Evil,” which brought in $1.5 million and is on pace for a $4.8 million second week that will push the domestic total for the horror film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer to $25 million.

The Weinstein Company’s “Begin Again” cracked the top ten after widening by 764 locations in its third week. The romantic musical comedy written and directed by John Carney brought in $824,000 from 939 theaters and may hit $3 million for the weekend. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine star.

See video: Adam Levine and Keira Knightley Make Up, Break Up in ‘Begin Again’ Lyric Clip

The Dinesh D’Souza documentary “America” was off just 29 percent from last Friday with an estimated $723,000 from 1,105 theaters, and should top $2 million for the three days. That would up its domestic total to roughly $8 million for distributor Lionsgate.

“Boyhood,” the Richard Linklater drama from IFC Films, was making waves in its limited opening. It took $102,161 from five New York and Los Angeles theaters, for a very strong $20,432 per-location average.