Highly evolved primates are set to unseat Optimus Prime and the Autobots at the top of the box-office charts this weekend.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," the 3D sequel to 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," should easily earn its place as the top-grossing movie at cinemas this weekend, continuing the strong draw for the rebooted franchise.
Thanks to strong reviews, positive word of mouth and fondness for its predecessor, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" could gross $65 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada through Sunday, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
The film's distributor 20th Century Fox is projecting a more conservative range of $55 million to $60 million.
Either outcome would be a strong start for the new film and a success for the production company Chernin Entertainment. Fox financed the production, which cost $170 million to make.
It will almost certainly end the reign of Paramount Pictures' "Transformers: Age of Extinction," which has ruled the U.S. box office for the last two weeks.
The fourth "Transformers" movie from Michael Bay scored $100 million in its domestic debut but dropped sharply over the following weekend. Worldwide, it has grossed about $600 million. With "Transformers" entering its third week in release and no other major competition entering the marketplace, "Apes" should have little trouble making its initial charge.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," starring James Franco, provided a big kick-off for the reboot of the decades-old franchise. It opened to $54.8 million and generated nearly $178 million through its full run in the U.S. and Canada.
While the new "Planet of the Apes" should top the predecessor's opening, it also cost considerably more. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which didn't benefit from pricier 3D movie tickets, was budgeted at $93 million.
The sequel takes place a decade after a killer virus devastated the human race. Head simian Caesar's nation of apes is faced with a group of survivors, and the interaction between the species is not peaceful for long.
Andy Serkis returns as Caesar, joined by a new cast of humans including those played by Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell. This installment was directed by Matt Reeves, who previously made the well-reviewed vampire film "Let Me In" and the hit monster movie "Cloverfield."
Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive for the effects-heavy tent pole picture. The movie's Rotten Tomatoes "freshness" score stood at 95% as of Thursday, better than the 82% positive rating for "Rise."
That should help the new film provide a much-desired boost to the summer box-office season that has proven lackluster compared with last year.
Summer movies have grossed $2.31 billion domestically. That's down about 18% compared with the same stretch of time a year ago, despite big numbers from movies such as "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "Maleficent" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction."