War for the Planet of the Apes” took down “Spider-Man: Homecoming” at the North American box office, opening with an estimated $56.5 million in ticket sales.
Though some initially expected a closer race, “Spider-Man” dropped to second with $45.2 million after its $117 million debut last weekend. But director Matt Reeves’ “War for the Planet of the Apes” pulled away thanks to strong reviews for the third installment of the rebooted “Apes” franchise.
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Led by Andy Serkis’ celebrated motion-capture performance as the ape leader Caesar, “War for the Planet of the Apes” won a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“What I think sets the ‘Planet of the Apes’ — these three films — apart from other franchise films is that it’s not gratuitous sequel-itis,” Fox’s Chris Aronson said. “This is storytelling, and it’s episodic storytelling. It’s not ‘Well, let’s put the band back together.'”
The reboot franchise’s latest edition came in closer to 2012’s “Rise of the Planet of the Planet of the Apes,” and well below the $72.6 million debut of 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” But Aronson believes good word-of-mouth will carry the third installment. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have a terrific multiple and it will be a lot closer to ‘Dawn’ than it will be ‘Rise,'” he said.
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The weekend’s other most notable entrant was Kumail Nanjiani’s “the Big Sick,” which expanded to about 2,600 theaters after three weeks of limited release. The acclaimed romantic comedy, produced by Judd Apatow, made $7.6 million — a rare success for a comedy in a summer full of disappointment.
The horror film “Wish Upon,” from Broad Green Pictures, was the weekend’s only other new release. It opened with $5.5 million and a dismal C CinemaScore from audiences.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “War for the Planet of the Apes,” $56.5 million
2. “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” $45.2 million ($208.3 million total)
3. “Despicable Me 3,” $18.9 million ($187.99 million total)
4. “Baby Driver,” $8.8 million ($73.2 million total)
5. “The Big Sick,” $7.6 million ($16 million total)
6. “Wonder Woman,” $6.9 million ($380.7 million total)
7. “Wish Upon,” $5.6 million
8. “Cars 3,” $3.2 million ($140 million total)
9. “Transformers: The Last Knight,” $2.8 million ($124.9 million total)
10. “The House,” $1.8 million ($23.1 million total)
Caesar, commander in chief of the apes in the new “War for the Planet of the Apes,” has been the heart and soul of the franchise since appearing as a baby chimp, raised by humans, in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” In the next one, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” he saved his kind and kept them on the path of good, until a chance encounter with surviving humans led to battle.
In “War,” directed by Matt Reeves, a similar confrontation with violent humans, and the personal outcome for his family, means Caesar must confront his own darkest impulses and find the moral rigor he has come to embody.
As Andy Serkis — the actor who has played Caesar, via performance-capture technology, from infant to elder — put it in an interview, “The war is also the war for Caesar’s soul.”