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‘Planet of the Apes’ Goes Bananas at Box Office and Hollywood Exhales


That whooshing sound you hear might be Hollywood exhaling, after “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” opened to a strong $27.7 million on Friday.

That puts the sci-fi sequel on pace for a weekend in the $70 million range, well ahead of the projections of analysts and Fox, which is distributing the Chernin Entertainment production. It will end the two-week reign of Paramount's “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which was a distant second Friday and is looking at a roughly $16 million third week.

The strong showing by “Apes” is a relief because the summer box office, down nearly 20 percent, could use a lift. This won't turn it around, since the weekend is still down roughly 24 percent from last year's comparable frame. But the better-than-expected debut dispels concerns that the box office could be in a free-fall after the dismal July 4 weekend, the worst since 1999.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is pacing well ahead of the previous film in the franchise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” That one brought in $19.5 million on its first day and finished with a $54.8 million opening weekend in August of 2011. It went on to total $176.7 million domestically and $305 million overseas.

“Rise” cost under $100 million to make, however, and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is considerably more expensive at $170 million. But with the addition of 3D and the expansion of the foreign market, Fox is banking on “Dawn” to out-gross its predecessor overseas.

The Matt Reeves-directed sequel of the franchise reboot stars Jason ClarkeGary Oldman and Keri Russell as humans battling apes and their leader, Caesar, played by motion capture pioneer Andy Serkis.

The Friday haul for the PG-13-rated “Apes” included $4.1 million in Thursday night showings and came from a market-high 3,967 theaters. It benefited from 3D and Premium Large Format theaters, bit it wasn't in IMAX theaters, which are showing Paramount's “Transformers.”

The $4.9 million Friday for “Transformers” was a 54 percent drop from last Friday, and the the morphing toy-bot epic will pass $200 million domestically this weekend. That's less than half its foreign total, which is more than $435 million, and less than the $231 million that the Chinese co-production has grossed in China.

Melissa McCarthy's “Tammy” ran third on Friday with just over $4 million. That's just a 37 percent drop for the R-rated comedy from Warner Bros., and means it will come in with around $13 million for the three days and lift its domestic total to around $57 million.