Weekend Predictions: Will Apes Rise Above the Competition?
August begins with two wide releases, include one opening in well over 3,000 theaters, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and one that's just below the saturation level,The Change-Up. This time last year, the one-two punch came from The Other Guys and Step Up 3D, which combined to earn just over $51 million. There are some who think Rise of the Planet of the Apes will earn that much by itself. That's a little too bullish for me, but it does suggest 2011 should extend its winning streak over 2010 to four weeks.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a... I don't know. Is it a remake? A reboot? A prequel? Re-adaptation? It's definitely connected to Planet of the Apes films, even if just tangentially. It tells the story of how apes could rise up and overthrow mankind, which would make it a prequel, but the story here doesn't match the original movies or the book they were inspired by. The original The Planet of the Apes was lauded as one of the best of the genre; however, later installments in the franchise were not greeted as warmly. Additionally, the more recent Planet of the Apes remake only earned mixed reviews and fell apart after an incredible opening. (It had the second-biggest opening weekend for the year, but only the tenth biggest domestic tally.) Fortunately, a crash and burn like that is unlikely, as the reviews are closer to the very original film's reviews than to most of the sequels. The buzz is also growing with the potential to reach $50 million during its opening weekend increasing. It probably won't get there, but $46 million is still a strong opening weekend, and with no major releases for the rest of summer, that should be enough to get to $100 million with ease.
Speaking of $100 million, it appears The Smurfs is heading for that milestone. After six days of release, the film had amassed over $50 million, and assuming the film avoids a 50% drop-off at the box office, it will be on pace to reach the century mark. Despite the terrible reviews, falling less than 40% seems more likely than falling more than 50%. That gives the film a range about about $18 million to $21 million over the weekend, with just under $20 million the safest bet. It might take a couple more weeks to get to $100 million, but it should get there.
The second wide release of the week is The Change-Up, a film from the same writer as The Hangover. That film earned strong reviews and broke records at the box office for an R-rated comedy. This film's reviews are weaker than The Hangover 2's reviews were. I was expecting Change-Up would earn at least 50% positive reviews and open in the low- to mid-$20 million range. Better than average legs would take care of the rest. However, with weak reviews, a $19 million opening weekend is more likely, plus the legs likely won't be there.
Cowboys and Aliens' path to $100 million is less sure, even though it opened faster and earned better reviews. Because of the direct competition and the genre, a 50% drop-off is virtually guaranteed. In fact, a 60% drop-off is not unlikely. That gives us a range of $15 million to $18 million. I'm going with fourth place and $17 million, which might be enough to get it to $100 million, eventually.
Captain America: The First Avenger should round out the top five with about $12 million over the weekend and lift its running tally to $142 million, which is more than it reportedly cost to make. Granted, it still has to take into account the exhibitioners' share and the P&A budget, but with good international numbers, it should break even by its initial push onto the home market. (And that's before taking into account merchandising.)
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($46,000,000)
2. The Smurfs: $18,000,000 - $21,000,000 ($19,750,000)
3. The Change-Up: ($19,000,000)
4. Cowboys and Aliens: $15,000,000 - $18,000,000 ($17,000,000)
5. Captain America: ($12,000,000)
Forecast: 'Apes' to Overrun the Weekend
This weekend, Rise of the Planet of the Apes swings on to nearly 5,600 screens at 3,648 locations, while The Change-Up gets freaky on close to 3,300 screens at 2,913 locations.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is unleashed ten years after the last Apes movie, Planet of the Apes (2001). That picture had an enormous opening weekend in its day, drawing $68.5 million or the equivalent of $96.5 million adjusted for ticket-price inflation. Audience reaction was mixed, and the movie burnt out quickly, closing with $180 million (or the equivalent of over $253 million today). That movie was a remake of the famous 1968 Charlton Heston classic, whereas Rise is essentially a remake of the 1972 sequel Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which had a fraction of the popularity of the original.
Backed by action-packed marketing that clearly delineates the movie's experiment-gone-awry creature feature premise and spectacle, Rise of the Planet of the Apes' appeal recalls past hits like I, Robot and District 9. FromPlanet of the Apes to King Kong to even Congo, ape thrills seem to resonate with the public as well. On the down side, in addition to the franchise's long dormancy and flame-out the last time, Rise doesn't offer a human character to get behind (a marginalized James Francodoesn't cut it). In the original and its remake, the audience enters the ape world through the eyes of a human.
Countering the Apes, The Change-Up puts a ribald twist on the body switch comedy by having family man Jason Bateman trade bodies with swinging bachelor Ryan Reynolds. Body switch movies typically appeal as family movies, but Change-Up eschews that audience, aiming to relate as a party movie as well as a wish fulfillment for adults who might think the grass is greener on the other side. Problem is that the bodies being switched are roughly the same physically, when successful body switch movies of the past had far more extreme changes.
The Change-Up's marketing has basically been "switch happens," then cut to some bawdy, gross-out gags, instead of building up the impetus and raising the stakes. For instance, Reynolds' motivation for wanting Bateman's life was not shown, so then it seems like the movie's about Bateman's character living it up, but that's not explored either. What's more, the married guy versus swinging bachelor premise screams generic Hollywood staple, and it doesn't help that Bateman was in a movie called The Switch last August. The movie's second redband trailer showed more promise, touching on Reynolds' character more, but it may be too little, too late.
Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, Rise of the Planet of the Apes has grabbed nearly 36 percent for opening weekend. While that was a bit higher than Cowboys & Aliens last week, it seemed a little cool for this type of movie: at the same point, Super 8 had 47.1 percent, Battle: Los Angeles had 44.8 percent and District 9 had 46.2 percent. On the other hand, the last big action movie released on the first weekend of August, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in 2009, had 36.4 percent and ended up grossing $54.7 million. The Change-Up was comparatively flaccid with its 9.6 percent opening weekend score, which was about the same asHall Pass.
Though Cowboys & Aliens edged out The Smurfs last weekend in their debuts, Smurfs should come out ahead this weekend: it's thoroughly out-paced Cowboys on the weekdays, and its genre is more conducive to longer runs. Crazy, Stupid, Love is tracking for a solid second-weekend hold, while Captain America: The First Avenger and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 should slow their rates of descent.
The Forecast, Aug. 5-7
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $45 million
2. The Smurfs - $18.5 million
3. Cowboys & Aliens - $16 million
4. Captain America: The First Avenger - $14 million
5. The Change-Up - $13.5 million
6. Crazy, Stupid, Love. - $12.5 million
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - $11.5 million
Bar for Success
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of a long dormant franchise, lacks human stars and is essentially a remake of one of the lesser Apes sequels, unlike the 2001 remake of the flagship movie. Therefore, it doesn't have the same pressure to perform as, say, X-Men: First Class. If it can open to around $40 million or as much asDistrict 9 or Hollow Man (adjusted for ticket-price inflation), that would be fine. Meanwhile, The Change-Upneeds to hit close to $20 million, the average of its comps, to get a pass.