'War for the Planet of the Apes' is victorious in box office battle

Move over, Spidey. This weekend’s box office belongs to the apes.

20th Century Fox’s “War for the Planet of the Apes” pulled in an estimated $56.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, good enough for first place in its debut weekend. It came in on the lower end of analyst projections of $55 million to $60 million.

“What sets this modern trilogy apart is that it's not a gratuitous sequel,” said Chris Aronson, the studio’s distribution chief. “This is epic episodic storytelling.”

The latest addition to the franchise, which first sprouted its legs in the late 1960s, showcases the battle between apes and humans. It’s directed by Matt Reeves, who also headed 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Much ado has been made about the film’s use of updated technology that enlivens Andy Serkis’ lead ape. But with Woody Harrelson’s addition to the franchise as the villain and Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, there’s much more to the tale than great visual effects.

Perhaps that’s why the picture has been well-reviewed by audiences and critics. Moviegoers (57% males; 63% 25 and older) gave it an A-minus CinemaScore, and it has a 94% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Chernin Entertainment-produced film, which cost $152 million to make, continues the recent trend of critical favorites bringing in big ticket sales.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” from Sony, fell to second place in its second week with $45.2 million. Though the 61% week-to-week drop is surely deeper than the studio hoped, the $175-million film has already brought in $208.3 million domestically to date.

Universal’s “Despicable Me” continues to hold strong, coming in third in its third week at $18.9 million for a domestic gross to date of $188 million. Worldwide, the animated flick tallies at $619.4 million.

Sony’s “Baby Driver,” also in its third week, landed in fourth place with $8.6 million. It’s pulled in $73.2 million domestically to date.

Rounding out the top five was Amazon/Lionsgate’s small but mighty “The Big Sick.” The film, which was never pegged to expand to the more than 2,500 theaters it's now at in its fourth week, brought in $7.6 million this weekend. Stellar reviews and massive word of mouth clued the studio in that the picture might be an effective chance for counter-programming (Hollywood's handy term for a film that isn't like the others) and decided to distribute the movie to significantly more theaters.

“It’s amazing that this independent film has found its footing as a family movie among all the summer blockbusters,” said Bob Berney, Amazon’s head of marketing and distribution. “The comedy and universal themes are connecting with audiences across the country.”

“Sick,” directed by Michael Showalter, was written by Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon, about their early courtship. Nanjiani stars as a version of himself, an aspiring comic, while Zoe Kazan plays Gordon in the Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy.

The picture, which Amazon bought for $12 million out of Sundance, has brought in $16 million to date.

The only other wide release this weekend was Broad Green’s “Wish Upon.” The poorly reviewed (20% on Rotten Tomatoes, C CinemaScore) horror starring Joey King, Ryan Phillippe and Ki Hong Lee pulled in $5.6 million.

On the limited release front, Alejandro Jodorowsky's “Endless Poetry” opened in two theaters, one in New York and another in Los Angeles. Released by ABKCO Films, Jodorowsky's longtime U.S. distribution partner, the film grossed $28,000 for a $14,000 per screen average. “Endless Poetry” narrates the story of Jodorowsky's years spent as an aspiring poet in Chile in the 1940s.

Opening in theaters Friday will be Warner Bros.’ action thriller “Dunkirk,” STX’s sci-fi tale “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and Universal’s female-led buddy comedy “Girls Trip.”

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter (@TrevellAnderson) or email me: trevell.anderson@latimes.com.

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