War for the Planet of the Apes, the third installment in the rebooted trilogy starring Andy Serkis as ape leader Caesar, is off to a good start at the box office – outgrossing its predecessor during Thursday night preview screenings. Much has been said about the disappointing commercial figures the films of summer 2017 have posted, with bona fide hits like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Wonder Woman few and far between. The marketplace got a shot in the arm with the arrival of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, which earned $117 million in its opening weekend. One common factor between all the box office successes in the past couple months is that they earned positive reviews from critics, boosting their appeal.
In that regard, Apes was in great shape, as many are in agreement it is an emotional and captivating end to Caesar’s story (read our review) thanks to its engaging narrative and great performances. Though the anticipated threequel was expected to open below the debut of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it was expected War would be a solid financial hit. Now, Fox knows just how well their latest blockbuster is doing as the first numbers start to roll in.
According to Variety, War brought in $5 million on Thursday night, which is a 22 percent increase from the $4.1 million Dawn made when it came out back in 2014. This puts the trilogy capper on pace for between $60-65 million in its first three days. That would make for the second-highest opening weekend for the new series; Rise of the Planet of the Apes grossed $54.8 million in its debut, while Dawn saw a haul of $72.6 million. Even with its strong word-of-mouth, War is facing stiff competition from Spider-Man, so it doesn’t have the multiplex all to itself.
At first glance, War‘s box office estimates could be seen as the latest instance of diminishing returns for a franchise – following the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Transformers: The Last Knight. However, there are some things to keep in mind. Apes‘ production budget of $150 million seems modest in comparison to the $230 million of Pirates and $217 million of Transformers. Fox obviously wants Apes to do very well, but it doesn’t have to break records to turn a profit. The supposed break even point is a realistic $300 million, a figure War should be able to pass easily worldwide. Dawn earned $710.6 million globally, so even if War pulls in slightly less, it will still go down as a success. Critics and audiences have also praised Apes, meaning it conceivably will have strong legs – even with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk on the horizon.
This is a nice development for Fox, as the filmmakers feel there’s potential for the series to expand beyond this self-contained trilogy. Director Matt Reeves has expressed interest in War followups, given that there is much more of the world to explore. A direct remake of the 1968 original Planet of the Apes doesn’t seem to be in the cards, but since interest remains high in the franchise, it seems likely there will be more apes on the big screen in the coming years.
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