How Did 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Conquer the Weekend Box Office?

Expectations weren't astronomical for the success of a prequel to a 40-year-old franchise, released in a summer thus far dominated by superheroes and the latest Transformers sequel. Turns out, though, that The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco, is a hit—with reviews ranging from middling to rapturous.

What accounts for the movie's $54 million haul over the weekend? Deadline dissects:

Every single monkey, baboon, and ape in the movie is a product of this performance capture technology. That earned raves from PETA and for Wyatt a Proggy Award given to animal-friendly companies, people and products. (PETA also showed up at the Ape' premiere in LA with signs reading, “Real Apes Love CGI,” and “Thank you, Fox for not using real Apes.”) The buzz this weekend is that Andy Serkis does an award-worthy job as the main chimp Caesar who leads the rebellion. But I don't know why the trailers I saw mistakenly focused on James Franco who isn't why moviegoers flocked to opening weekend. Fox was hoping for North American box office in the low-ball $30sM, so $54M is fantastic. "Phenomenal opening validating a sensational marketing effort led by Oren Aviv and Tony Sella," a Fox exec gushed to me. Then again, tracking has been good for males and fans of the original movies, although softer for females. The fact is that the studio had a lot of ground to make up with this movie because fanboys hated the Tim Burton version from a decade ago. But this origins story scored 82% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.

Elsewhere at the box office, the Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman body-switching flick The Change-Up performed dismally. Read the full analysis at Deadline Hollywood.

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Spencer Kornhaber is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers pop culture and music. He was previously an editor at Patch.com and a staff writer at OC Weekly. He has written for Spin, The AV Club, and RollingStone.com.

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