Thursday, July 10 Update: Fandango reports that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes currently accounts for a strong 70 percent of weekend ticket sales. Their full press release is here.
Tuesday, July 8: Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is mounting for what Fox expects will be a domestic opening in the mid-to-upper $50 million range. The film's social media trends back up that expectation, while perhaps hinting at even more potential.
Although the franchise previously delivered a once-record bow for July ($68.5 million) with Tim Burton's 2001 remake, this reimagined series had to rebuild the brand's appeal one decade later. Rise of the Planet of the Apes sprouted strong legs three years ago after it opened to a healthy $55 million, closing with $177 million domestically as part of an impressive $483 million global take against its estimated $140 million negative costs.
The X factor for Dawn's bottom line--like many films, but typically not summer blockbuster sequels--will again be staying power instead of a massive opening. To that end, Fox and director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) have plenty of reason to be encouraged: early critics' reviews are praiseworthy, as Fox's marketing team has wisely begun citing in the film's promos, while major publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are contributing to the preliminary 95 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. To keep things in perspective, the sample size for that rating isn't yet large enough to confirm that Dawn will finish in the coveted 80 percent-plus range (or higher), but it's off to a great start regardless.
Twitter activity hasn't set the world ablaze as it trails the likes of Edge of Tomorrow and Godzilla by more than 2-to-1 ratios, although Facebook activity is generally healthy with nearly 1.8 million fans as of July 7--even if that's still a far cry short of most action franchise "like" totals.
The Flixster community is a different story, though. With over 105,000 voters giving the sequel a 98 percent "want to see" score, Apes is well ahead of the 75,000 votes that Godzilla accumulated before its May release. Apes is only the sixth release of 2014 to top the six-figure Flixster vote total, of which the previous five will end up topping $175 million domestically. Dawn is also adding new anticipatory votes at a quicker rate than Transformers: Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past leading into their debuts.
As a word of caution, though, mixed online signs have occurred in the past with both breakout hits and box office underperformers. Sequels like Star Trek Into Darkness and How to Train Your Dragon 2 boasted strong anticipation from the online community, only to end up pulling numbers significantly below industry expectations.
The weak summer market up to this point leaves Dawn in an advantageous position after Rise won over adult crowds and regained some goodwill for the franchise in 2011. Combined with Dawn's promises of a balance between character and spectacle, the Fox release has a leg up on most films entering the marketplace since May. The change in leading actors (from James Franco to Zero Dark Thirty's lesser known Jason Clarke) could contribute to hindering a major breakout upfront, but the film's real stars are led by the returning Andy Serkis in the role of Caesar. Bringing aboard Gary Oldman in a supporting role doesn't hurt, either.
If Dawn's action elements draw in older teens and young adult viewers this weekend, the film has a strong chance at out-performing its predecessor. A North American run toward $180-200 million could be on the table, with an additional overseas target around $400 million--where the previous flick, without the aid of 3D surcharges that Dawn will benefit from, earned $306 million. With a rumored production budget in the neighborhood of $120 million, anything over $400 million globally will leave Fox execs quite pleased yet again this summer.