Warring Apes and Spider-Man Try To Keep Summer Streak Alive
By John Hamann
July 16, 2017
Could this be the weekend the box office needs badly – on a roll following Spider-Man's romp last weekend?
The top five films at the box office this weekend have a lot going for them: A Rotten Tomatoes average fresh rating of 88%, A strong Spider-Man movie prepped to hold after a debut of $117 million last weekend, critical drool around War for the Planet of Apes, and the large expansion of indie darling The Big Sick, which was pulling with it incredible word-of-mouth. This should be it! Possibly a domestic weekend that hammers last year when the Ghostbusters reboot flopped, and one that sets a new tone for the last month and a half of summer earnings. If you were hoping for a blowout frame at the box office, let me burst your bubble right now: Spider-Man Homecoming dropped a not very Marvel-ous 61%, and War For the Planet of the Apes barely beat the original's $54 million opening. That leaves us again looking to next weekend and hoping that Dunkirk, Valerian or Girls Trip can somehow figure out how draw audiences to theaters, as the box office continues to fall away from previous years.
The number one film at the box office this weekend is War For the Planet of the Apes, the much advertised and talked about third film in the latest apes trilogy. The box office news on Thursday felt very good – War earned a strong $5 million from previews, potentially setting the table for a big weekend. That was a million more on Thursday than the last film in the series did, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes went on to earn $72.6 million over opening weekend. That means the third film should open even bigger, right? Not so fast. Even with the million-dollar cushion from Thursday, the opening Apes film fell way behind the second film for the combined Thursday/Friday, with Dawn earning $27.6 million, and War finding only $22 million. All of a sudden, there was a 20% deficit for War compared to Rise, and the opening day for the third film was only $2.5 million bigger than the original. War for the Planet of the Apes cost $60 million more to make, too.
These Planet of the Apes films started with a fairly light tone in the James Franco original, and even had some fun in the first half of the film. Yes, it goes a little dark in the second half, but compared to the second film, it was almost a comedy. That's why the original was able to earn more than three times its opening weekend domestically – picking up $176 million after opening to $56 million. The original had a budget of $93 million, and had it not earned $300 million plus overseas, there would never have been another film. The second film, a darker, more dense film from Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, did what it needed to keep the franchise alive. It out-opened the original and managed to earn more both domestically ($208.5 million) and abroad ($502 million) to justify an increase in budget to $170 million – almost twice what the original cost. It was still profitable and added another film to the box set, so, naturally, the third shows up this weekend. The problem is, Apes was going to have an opening weekend more like the original and a budget more like the sequel.