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Apes rumble through theatre jungle to dominant box office weekend

Latest installment of Planet of the Apes saga rakes in more than rest of top 10 combined
This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Noa, played by Owen Teague, in a scene from “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” (20th Century Studios via AP)

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” reigned over the weekend box office with a $56.5 million North American opening, according to studio estimates Sunday, giving a needed surge to an uncertain season in theaters.

The film from 20th Century Studios and Disney that built on the rebooted “Apes” trilogy of the 2010s had the third highest opening of the year, after the $81.5 million debut of “Dune: Part Two” in early March and the $58.3 million domestic opening of “Kung Fu Panda 4” a week later.

The strong performance for “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” — it played even better internationally with a global total of $129 million — comes a week after a tepid start for Ryan Gosling’s “The Fall Guy” signaled that the summer of 2024 is likely to see a major drop-off after the “Barbenheimer” magic of 2023.

“Planet of the Apes” easily made more than the rest of the top 10 combined.

“The Fall Guy” fell to No. 2 with a $13.7 million weekend and a two-week total of $49.7 million for Universal Pictures.

Zendaya’s “Challengers” was third with $4.7 million and has earned $38 million in three weeks for Amazon MGM studios.

The opening for “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” helmed by “Maze Runner” director Wes Ball, was the second best in the series, after the $72 million opening weekend of 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

It’s the 10th movie in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise that began in 1968 with the Charlton Heston original with a twist ending.

“This franchise has never been allowed to lose its momentum,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “There are very few franchises that have this kind of longevity.”

And it really is the property itself. The new film shares no central actors or characters with its predecessors.

“There’s just this love for the way it melds sci-fi with social commentary and straight-up popcorn entertainment,” Dergarabedian said.

“Kingdom” came with strong reviews and positive buzz (80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a “B” CinemaScore). It was especially praised for its visual effects and the way its CGI has caught up with its primates-on-horseback aesthetic even since the last film, 2017’s “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

Mark Kennedy of The Associated Press called it “thrilling” and “visually stunning.”

The shot in the arm is welcome for the movie business, but there is little certainty in the forthcoming summer.

The year so far, lacking an early Marvel movie like 2023’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” is running 21% last year’s mid-May total.

While there are potential blockbusters that feel like safe bets including “Despicable Me 4” and “Deadpool & Wolverine” in July, others like “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” later this month and “Twisters” later in the summer feel like they could break either way.

Pixar once brought almost guaranteed hits, but June’s “Inside Out 2” may not thrive like the 2015 original.

“There used to be sure bets we cannot necessarily bank on anymore,” Dergarabedian said. ”It is going to be a bit of a hit-or-miss slate.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” $56.5 million.

2. “The Fall Guy,” $13.7 million.

3. “Challengers,” $4.7 million.

4. “Tarot,” $3.45 million.

5. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” $2.5 million.

6. “Unsung Hero,” $ 2.25 million.

7. “Kung Fu Panda 4,” $2 million.

8. “Civil War,” $1.8 million.

9. “Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace,” $1.5 million.

10. “Abigail,” $1.1 million.

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