Planet of the Apes
July 27, 2001
If you've been to a theater within the last three months, you've seen the wall-to-Wahlberg, one-sheet posters. If you've read the weekly entertainment and news periodicals, you know the hype. If you've visited the major movie Web sites, you've felt the buzz.
This is not your father's Planet of the Apes.
With an unrelenting blitz of prime-time TV marketing, those fast-paced peeks and quick-edit ad spots for Planet of the Apes blast away with numerous explosive special effects, a pounding back-beat, and money shots galore. The action sequences are lent a grandiose, epic look and feel. The resident humans speak (!). A glowering gorilla barks, "Get me the Spaceman!" Tim Burton, director of Planet of the Apes, has once again left his conspicuous air and fingerprint of artistic interpretation upon his work.
So who really wants to see this re-visitation of the Planet of the Apes that is neither sequel, nor carbon-copy remake?
Unquestionably, there are Burton fans lurking out there in the shadows, in constant obedient anticipation of his next cinematic offering. There's probably a small contingent of die-hard Mark Walhberg (in the lead role) fans who will reliably show up for any of his films, with or without prosthetic penis enhancement. Sci-fi nuts are legendary in their front-loading box office turn-outs for anything with a scintilla of sci-fi content. Baby-boomer fans of the original film and sequel series experience nostalgic pangs and wistful memories of the classic Ape adventure, and secretly yearn for, and may be more than willing to yield to, an updated re-visitation. However, Planet of the Apes' appeal is not limited to those still living in the '70s. Here's a legitimate blockbuster capable of standing on its own two legs, where fandom is a possible enhancement of, not prerequisite for, huge anticipation and widespread interest in the film.
The best box office prospects for Planet of the Apes lay within the average Joe movie fan's craving for an entertaining, packed house, rollicking, popcorn-munching, check-your-brain-at-the-door boom-fest event that makes everyone feel like the price of admission and box of Goobers was money well spent. That's what hype and anticipation are all about. If Planet of the Apes is critically panned pre-release, no one will care, cause that ain't the point.
Will Planet of the Apes have a huge opening weekend? Undoubtedly. Will Planet of the Apes set any new box-office records? Possibly. Will Planet of the Apes eclipse the magical $200 million gross box office mark for prestigious entry into the blockbuster Hall of Fame? If audience reaction is favorable, almost certainly. Will the semi-star supporting cast, or lack of A-list lead casting make any difference? We'll never know, but just ask the folks that brought you X-Men or The Mummy if it hurt or helped their gross bottom line.
History points towards ingredients that promote, but don't guarantee, blockbuster box office success. With Planet of the Apes, the enviable mix includes excellent timing (end of July); limited competition (none, opening solo); B-list casting (irrelevant, perhaps); a run time that allows for numerous daily screenings; action/adventure and special effects (plenty); wide appeal across all demographics; recognizable and familiar title (c'mon...why do most sequels fare so well?); and the all-important PG-13 MPAA rating, which means grandma and the kiddies can come, too. While by no means an absolute certainty, Planet of the Apes will likely enjoy as wide and large a distribution, in screens and prints, as is humanly possible, ensuring at least the foundation for maximum exposure in every market.
Don't be surprised if Planet of the Apes winds up being one of the top three grossing films of 2001. No monkey business here. (Cal Hubbard/BOP)
Box Office Autopsy
Planet of the Apes became the poster boy for crash-and-burn box-office performance in the summer of '01; while other films might have disappeared faster (Final Fantasy, anyone?), none did so with as much flair or after as promising a start. Most pundits predicted big things at the outset, and it didn't disappoint on this front. The $68.53 million opening was a record for a non-holiday weekend (besting The Mummy Returns by $420,000). After that... well, how do I put this politely? Don't expect it to be winning any People's Choice Awards. A 60% (!) drop followed in its second week, and it limped home to a $180 million total, or only 2.63 times its opening weekend. The number-two opener of the year managed only tenth spot in the year-end rankings.
Worldwide it faired much the same, bringing in just under $180 million in overseas territories, which still makes for a healthy profit on this $100 million-budget film. A huge DVD launch also added to the coffers, as it promised one of the most advanced DVDs ever made (for about a month, anyway). It proved to be a solid rental title as well, catching unsuspecting viewers and landing in the top six of 2001. These figures may all add up to one frightening word: sequel. Director Tim Burton has said that Apes 2 is about the last thing he would want to do, meaning it would be left to someone else to figure out how to fit that surprise ending into some kind of logical framework. I don't foresee a large groundswell of public support for a second edition, though, and producers will have a lot of work convincing anyone that a sequel is necessary. Then again, the sequels to the original 1968 film don't exactly strike anyone as "vital", do they? As long as there's a name brand with value to ensure a massive start, Fox will continue to roll the dice. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Vital statistics for Planet of the Apes
Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Estella Warren
Paul Giamatti, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson, Erick Avari, Luke Eberl
William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark D. Rosenthal
||20th Century Fox
||Click Here for Trailer
|| Calvin Trager reviews Planet of the Apes
||Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture
Comparison films for Planet of the Apes
|Lost World, The
|Planet of the Apes
|Mummy Returns, The
|Men In Black
|Jurassic Park III