SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Overall weekend moviegoing was down again (-20%) as Hollywood worries over grosses plunging -19% from last mid-summer’s. Which is why it took on more importance that media are praising an apes movie as classic Western, Godfather-esque, even Shakespearean. Or that this valuable motion-capture 3D franchise was entrusted to a TV co-creator (Felicity) and small horror films director (Cloverfield and Let Me In). That, boys and girls, is how you circumvent sequel mistrust and open a summer tentpole bigger than expected.
1. Twentieth Century Fox-financed and Chernin Entertainment-produced Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes earned an A- Cinemascore from audiences, stellar reviews from critics, and now is overperforming. Friday’s domestic box office targeted $27.7M and Saturday’s $25.5M for what may be a $73M first opening weekend from 3,967 U.S./Canadian theaters. The only question unanswered is how much Sunday’s World Cup soccer final will hurt grosses. Friday’s figure included Thursday’s $4.1M from 10 PM late shows and midnights at 2,750 runs. The Matt Reeves-helmed sci-fi heavy special effects-laden actioner cost a whopping $170M (almost twice as much as the first) which Fox solely financed, according to the studio. "Great number, great start," a Fox exec says confidently. Opening weekend gross domestic wound up +33% more than the previous Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes which had a $54.8M opening. Exit polling showed the Dawn audience was 58% male/42% female, with 55% aged 25 and up/45% older than 25, including 47% Caucasian, 23% African American, 16% Hispanic, and 14% Asian.
Until Friday afternoon the studio was still trying to lower expectations to $55M-$60M for the first FSS after last weekend’s lousy Independence Holiday results for overall moviegoing and the -19% downturn at midpoint in 2014 summer grosses. Big ticket-seller Fandango reported that Apes was scooping up 70% of all pre-sales, exceeding where the first pic was at this period. Reviews have been stellar with an astonishing (and rare) 91% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Internationally, pic opens day and date in 28 markets, including Australia, South Korea, Southeast Asia. Like the first film, sequel should make 50% of its global grosses overseas. Opening weekend gross internationally was $31.1M (26 markets but only two majors – Australia and South Korea) for an opening global cume of $104.1M.
So how do you market with any freshness an apes vs humans movie that’s been reimagined 8 times between 1968 and 2014, rebooted 3 times, and this latest franchise installment is a sequel? Hell if I know – except to incorporate Andy Serkis (reprising Caesar) nonstop. (Though I did burst into laughter the first time I saw the long Dawn trailer for no other reason that there were apes, apes, APES everywhere!) But Fox had to do it because all these apes are responsible for half a billion dollars in domestic theatrical gross alone. "It’s an Ape World and we are all living in it, that’s for sure," a Fox exec told me tonight. So the studio kicked off the Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes campaign a year ago with a Simian Flu infection of the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con via PSA-type social posts, a virus-awareness micro-site, and sanitary masks + hand sanitizer gel for fans to take home. Other highlights included Fox delivering a sneak preview during the season finale of AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead. And Andy Serkis taking over the @ApesMovies Instagram account for the day during WonderCon. And the film doing a live Google+ Hangout at YouTube Headquarters, a cast Twitter Chat at Twitter Headquarters which ended with the Red Carpet global premiere. Fourth of July social blitz garnered 5x average engagement from millions of fans. Finally, Fox employed Vice Media’s Science and Tech arm to create 3 original short films detailing the 10 years between the two films and the effects of the Simian Flu on society. Plague Inc introduced the Simian Flu into the popular game. Screenplay was by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Producers were Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver. And the cast besides Serkis included Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell.
2. Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Paramount) Week 3 [3912 runs] PG13
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $6.6M, Weekend $16.5M, Cume $209.0M
International Cume $543.5M, Worldwide Total $752.5M
3. Tammy (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3465 runs] R
Friday $4.0M, Saturday $5.0M, Weekend $12.5M (-42%), Cume $56.9M
4. 22 Jump Street (Columbia/Sony) Week 5 [2811 runs] R
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $2.6M, Weekend $6.7M, Cume $171.9M
5. How To Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Anim/Fox) Week 5 [2885 runs] PG
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5.8M, Cume $152.0M
6. Earth To Echo (Relativity) Week 2 [3230 runs] PG
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $5.5M (-34%), Cume $24.5M
IFC FILMs’ much ballyhooed Boyhood from Richard Linklater started its run today in 5 NY and LA theaters with a very respectable per screen average of $71,800 for what should be a $359K weekend. The R-rated indie film scored 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is almost unheard-of, and already is Oscar-buzzed. I’m a sucker for sassy marketing, and pic’s dealmaker/producer John Sloss emailed to influencers a "Time Back Guarantee: That if you are not absolutely thrilled by Boyhood and/or consider it not to be a good use of your time, I will give you that time back by performing any of your customary chores for up to 2 hours and 43 minutes." Pic 12 years in the making already has an awards consultant. And IFC President Jonathan Sehring, who greenlit and supported it, is telling media this is his favorite project of his entire professional career.