Forecast: 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 delineated 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. From Planet 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 Franco doesn'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 as Hall 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 as District 9 or Hollow Man (adjusted for ticket-price inflation), that would be fine. Meanwhile, The Change-Up needs to hit close to $20 million, the average of its comps, to get a pass.
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• Last Weekend's Forecast: Can 'Cowboys & Aliens' Rope in Audiences?
• August Preview
• Extended Summer Forecast: 'Harry Potter,' 'Transformers' & More Vie for Top Gross
• 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'
• 'The Change-Up'