“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” swung into theaters and snagged an estimated $73 million domestic debut this weekend from audiences looking for a blockbuster with brains.
The 20th Century Fox release unspooled across 3,967 U.S. theaters and was fueled by a glowing reviews, with many critics calling it the summer’s best popcorn film.
“It’s one of those rare times when critics and audiences agree and the confluence created a perfect storm for a phenomenal opening,” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox. “A lot of the movies over the last couple of weeks have been received on the tepid side, shall we say, so the market was ripe for a high quality, visually-stunning film.”
Overseas, the film brought in $31.1 million from 26 markets, most of them smaller territories with the exception of Australia and South Korea.
Its U.S. debut exceeds the $60 million bow that tracking suggested it would hit and eclipses the $54.8 million bow of 2011′s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Audiences were 58% male and 65% were 25 years or older, with the film skewing slightly younger than its predecessor. Roughly 8% of its domestic total came from premium large screen formats.
“With the critical response, we think that the older audience that sustained the first one will turn out and that will help give it legs,” said Aronson.
The studio set production costs at $170 million, a figure that the “Apes” sequel should have no trouble recouping when taking into account its international haul. After this weekend, the more-than-four decade-old “Apes” franchise has passed the $1 billion mark — a just reward for enduring Charlton Heston in a loincloth and Helena Bonham Carter in a monkey suit.
Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) directed the sequel, which swapped the bulk of the cast from the previous film, but kept the post-apocalyptic, Bay Area vibe. The picture finds the human survivors of a global pandemic trying to navigate a world where genetically modified simians have the upper hand. Chernin Entertainment produced the film and Fox financed it.