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Box-Office: Audiences Go ‘Ape’ For ‘Dawn’; ‘Transformers 4’ Becomes Highest Grossing Film Of 2014

Box-Office: Audiences Go ‘Ape’ For ‘Dawn’; 'Transformers 4' Becomes Highest Grossing Film Of 2014

Biting sharply into Michael Bay’s box-office hegemony, 20th Century Fox’s “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” took the #1 spot this weekend with an extremely healthy $73 million opening. That’s up around 33% from 2011’s “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” a surprise hit that veered very close to $500 million worldwide. A lot of components factored into its success: extremely positive reviews (here’s ours), great word of mouth, little competition — and considering Matt Reeves’ sequel is darker, more adult, and nowhere near as “crowd-pleasing” as the average blockbuster (at least not in the traditional sense), this is a great sign for Fox and the lifespan of this franchise, especially when a A- Cinemascore means audiences were very satisfied. Couple that with weak box-office competitors next weekend (“Sex Tape,” “The Purge” sequel), its possible ‘Apes’ could remain at #1 next week and or at least continue to do considerable business for the next few weeks (its $73 million gross is higher than the 14 films combined in the box-office top 15 this week).

The following weeks will tell the tale, and it’s only the fifth highest opening of 2014 behind tentpoles like “Godzilla” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but this debut suggests a very strong domestic haul that could crack $200 million in North America and outperform them both in the long haul. There’s a lot of chestbeating going on for Andy Serkis and an Oscar nomination. And while he’s worthy, we don’t see it happening, but that kind of buzz won’t hurt the film’s box-office lifespan either. ‘Apes’ grossed $104 million globally this weekend (but only from two major international territories). Most markets won’t open the movie until after the World Cup and many pundits are already predicting a worldwide take that exceeds $600 million which will put the franchise almost on par with the big boys of Marvel and other super hero dominators. An excellent feat when you consider the lead is a CGI character.

Meanwhile, the disparity in international and domestic box office keeps growing for immense spectacle pictures. These days, the rule of thumb is practically becoming: if the blockbuster is performing well globally, it’s may not be charting as well at home. Take Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Age Of Extinction,” which has grossed a stellar $752 million in three weeks of release. Guess what? That makes it the highest grossing film of the year worldwide, surpassing “X-Men: Days Of Future Past.” And yep, the tentpole has already passed the $200 million mark at home too. But the blockbuster had another fairly steep drop, approximately 55% again in its third weekend, meaning it’s on track for about the $250 million range domestically all said and done. That sounds nice on paper, but it would make the fourth film the lowest grossing picture in the ‘Transformers’ franchise stateside. No ‘Transformers’ film has grossed less than $300 million domestically. Even the lowest grossing “Transformers,” the 2007 original, grossed $319 million, so $250m would be a 60% million (or a 21.6% drop) off. It’s simple economics. Yes, ‘Age of Extinction’ still has yet to open up in some key international territories because of the World Cup so it will undoubtedly make it all up internationally and likely cross the $1 billion mark.

But this statistic has got to be at least somewhat disconcerting to American studios making American films based on nostalgia touchstones of American pop culture that interest is waning at home (also, see “The Amazing Spider-Man” series which ended up being the lowest grossing of the series at home too). There’s one of two ways studios can take the news: just increase the focus on international markets or do something that will engage perhaps more savvy North American audiences getting a little bored of installments 4, 5 and 6. But money is money, no matter where it comes from, and since this is a business, maybe studios aren’t going to care so much if only the rest of the planet is keeping them in rich profit (though sure, doing well at home is a nice narrative to maintain). “Box office reporting may look like this in the very near future: Domestic, China, International,” wrote the Exhibitors Relations Twitter account this weekend. And it makes sense, $262 million of the ‘Age of Extinction’ gross has come from China so far. That’s a staggering figure, and of course ,one that will easily outgross the U.S. sum.

In the number three slot, Melissa McCarthy’sTammy” fell 39% in its 2nd week suggesting a better hold than its weak debut suggested it could maintain. McCarthy certainly has a loyal core audience and perhaps they didn’t all feel the need to see the movie on opening weekend and interrupt their July 4th plans. The movie has currently grossed a healthy $57.4 million domestically. But to be fair, the comedy is still down 22% from the second weekend of “Identity Thief” in February of 2013. Still, you’d be an fool if you thought McCarthy’s comedy reign was over.

Elsewhere in the box-office, “22 Jump Street” is still hanging strong within the top 5 after 5 weeks in theaters ($172 million domestically). After an unremarkable opening the CGI-live-action hybrid for families, “Earth to Echo” only fell around 30% so that’s better news for Relativity. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is slowly, but surely starting to demonstrate the kinds of numbers DreamWorks Animation would like to see ($314 million worldwide), but it needs at least $400 million to be considered a success by their standards, considering the original. “Deliver Us From Evil” hasn’t really moved the needle and at this point it’s doubtful it will break even, a strange phenomenon for a low-budgeted ScreenGems horror (budgeted a little too high by their standards it seems).

Maleficent” is a much greater success story. The Disney live-actioner is closing in on the $700 million mark in its 7th week of release, it’s still in the top 10 (lingering longer than any film this summer) and has cracked the $220 million at home. The Angelina Jolie vehicle should easily end up being one of the highest grossing films of summer 2014, both abroad and stateside. Another success story is the The Weinstein Company‘s “Begin Again” which expanded wide in its third week of release and cracked the top 10. It’s made a healthy $5.3 million so far and perhaps is the perfect kind of summer counter-programming offering for audiences sick of explosions. Having grossed $41 million at home, Clint Eastwood‘s “Jersey Boys” is looking far less disastrous than it did in its opening weekend, but it likely can’t make up what it cost to make and promote. 

Outside of the top 10, Tom Cruise‘s “Edge of Tomorrow” hit the $350 million mark worldwide which certainly undoes most negative narratives. The movie certainly did fairly well overall globally. Unfortunately for Warner Bros. it won’t be much of a financial success because of its $175 million price tag. With 6 weeks with maybe 2-3 to go, the movie also looks like it will fall short of $100 million domestically. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is sooo close to almost surpassing “X-Men: The Last Stand” domestically. If Fox is willing to leave it in theaters past 10 weeks, it should be able to get there. 

No surprise in limited release, given the omnipresent buzz, press and 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, was the success of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” In spite of its almost 3 hour running time, the indie grossed $359,000 from five theaters making for the second highest per screen average of the year behind Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (which holds the all-time P.S.A. record). That per-theater-average of $71,800 is summer’s highest too. “Snowpiercer” has hit VOD so limited numbers are starting to slow down, but it’s still going to be considered one of summer 2014’s indie success stories.

All figures are currently estimates. More international numbers to come. 

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — $73.8 million
2. Transformers: Age of Extinction — $16.5million ($208.5m)
3. Tammy — $12.9 million ($57.4m)
4. 22 Jump Street — $6.7 million ($171.4m)
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — $5.8 million ($152.1m)
6. Earth to Echo — $5.7 million ($24 m)
6. 7. Deliver Us From Evil — $4.8M ($25.1m)
8. Maleficent — $4.1 million ($221.m)
9. Begin Again — $2.9 million ($5.3m)
10. Jersey Boys — $2.5 million ($41.6m)

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