It took a set of evolved primates to end the dominance of colossal transforming robots at the box office. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" became king of the multiplex after taking in $73 million over the weekend in the U.S. and Canada, according to studio estimates.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," the 3-D sequel to the 2011 blockbuster "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," took in an additional $31.1 from 26 international markets including Australia and South Korea, according to estimates.
Twentieth Century Fox's latest entry in the "Planet of the Apes" franchise, which cost $170 million to make, benefited from stellar reviews, positive word of mouth and the strong performance of its 2011 predecessor. The "Dawn" launch was 33% higher than "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which opened to $54.8 million and didn't benefit from pricier 3-D tickets. "Dawn" also far surpassed studio expectations, which projected an opening of $55 million to $60 million.
The sequel stars Andy Serkis, who returns as head simian Caesar, along with a new cast of humans including Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'" performance helped 20th Century Fox to become the first studio to cross the billion-dollar mark in box-office sales for the U.S. and Canada this year. Fox's 2014 tally stands at $1.015 billion.
With no other major competition entering the marketplace, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" was able to push another blockbuster tent pole, "Transformers: Age of Extinction," into second place.
The fourth "Transformers" movie from Michael Bay had dominated the U.S. box office for the previous two weeks. In its third week the film took in $16.5 million, sending the Paramount Pictures' tent pole over the $200-million mark.
But a bigger story emerged far outside the top 10: "Boyhood," director Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making drama, grossed $359,000 from just five screens over the weekend during its initial limited release.
The per-screen average of $71,800 reflected sellouts at theaters in New York and Los Angeles. "Boyhood" secured the second-highest per-screen average of the year following the record-breaking performance of Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
The scripted coming-of-age film — shot in chunks over a dozen years — follows a boy (Ellar Coltrane) growing up while his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) mature with him. Linklater's nearly three-hour film was a hit when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and the rave reviews have only continued. A rare 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, strong word of mouth and an aggressive social-media campaign added to the film's early success.
"Looking back, it seemed like a tremendous risk. But at that time when we sat down, it seemed like an obvious easy yes," said Jonathan Sehring, whose IFC Films financed "Boyhood" and released the film.
IFC, which is owned by AMC Networks, had financed Linklater's real-time relationship drama "Tape" and animated cerebral picture "Waking Life" by the time the director approached Sehring about "Boyhood."
"It came prior to our company greenlighting 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad,'" Sehring said. "It's all about embracing great storytelling. Everything could have gone wrong, and nothing did. Everybody had the same goal and the same vision and the same passion. And that all goes back to [Linklater]."
He added that the audience so far has been "everyone from octogenarians to 13-year-olds — and they are all applauding. It's really gratifying."
Sehring said the film will expand to 10 markets next weekend.