With strong reviews and goodwill from its well-liked predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes easily ruled the domestic box office this weekend.
Overall, though, it was another slow weekend at U.S. movie theaters: the Top 12 earned $139.7 million, which is down 26 percent from the same weekend last year.
Debuting at 3,967 theaters, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes earned an estimated $73 million this weekend. That's a 33 percent improvement over the last movie's $54.8 million opening, and is also noticeably higher than last Summer's World War Z ($66.4 million). Of course, it's way off from the $90-million level that some other Summer movies have reached, though the Apes brand is obviously not as popular as Transformers, Spider-Man or X-Men.
The movie's strong debut can be attributed to a few factors. First, 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was well-received by moviegoers, and has connected with many more during its post-theatrical run. That movie ended in such a way that viewers were actually excited about what may happen next, and the sequel appeared to push the story forward in an intriguing direction.
While Dawn retained the key ingredient from Rise's success (Caesar), it also kept things fresh with a darker tone and a new batch of human characters. Add in fantastic reviews (above 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and Dawn was well-positioned to break out.
According to distributor 20th Century Fox, the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes audience skewed male (58 percent) and older (55 percent over the age of 25). Roughly 36 percent of the weekend haul came from 3D ticket sales.
With strong reviews and good word-of-mouth ("A-" CinemaScore), Dawn should hold up well over the next few weeks. It will almost certainly earn over $200 million, and could get as high as $240 million.
Facing tough competition from Apes, Tranformers: Age of Extinction fell 56 percent to $16.5 million. Through 17 days, the fourth installment in the Transformers franchise has earned $209 million; it's now on track to close below $255 million.
In its second weekend, Tammy dipped 40 percent to an estimated $12.9 million. The Melissa McCarthy comedy has now grossed $57.4 million, and is on track for at least $80 million total.
22 Jump Street eased 32 percent to $6.7 million. To date, the comedy sequel has earned a fantastic $172 million.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 rounded out the Top Five with $5.9 million (down 35 percent). The DreamWorks animation sequel has grossed $152.1 million total.
Begin Again expanded to 939 locations and earned a solid $2.9 million. The John Carney comedy has taken in $5.3 million total so far.
Dinesh D'Souza's America (2014) had a fantastic hold this weekend. The documentary eased 11 percent to $2.45 million; to date, its earned $8.3 million.
Richard Linklater's Boyhood opened at five theaters this weekend and earned $359,000. That translates to a strong $71,800 per-theater average, which ranks second this year behind The Grand Budapest Hotel. The movie has received unanimously positive reviews, and should continue putting up solid numbers as it expands over the next few weeks.
Thanks to another exceptional weekend at the overseas box office, Transformers: Age of Extinction is now the highest-grossing movie of the year with $753 million worldwide.
The fourth installment in the Transformers franchise added $102 million overseas for a new total of $543.5 million. Including previews, it opened to $20.4 million in the U.K. and $16.2 million in Mexico. Meanwhile, it fell 52 percent to $25 million in China, which brings its record-breaking total to $262.6 million.
The movie still has Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan on the way; Transformers: Dark of the Moon earned over $160 million across those markets. It's a foregone conclusion that Age of Extinction winds up over $1 billion, and it could even get past $1.1 billion.
Playing in 62 markets, How to Train Your Dragon 2 added $34.4 million this weekend. In the U.K., it opened to a very strong $15.9 million. To date, the animated sequel has earned $197.5 million.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opened in South Korea, Australia and a handful of smaller markets and earned $30.4 million this weekend. In Korea, its $11.4 million debut was over twice as high as the first movie's opening. In Australia, it opened to $6.6 million (up 30 percent from Rise). It also showed major improvements over Rise in the rest of its markets, which suggests that Dawn is poised to significantly out-gross that movie's $305 million.