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Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 08-01-11


 
20110401 APE SHOTS_RC153_133_V240_006R Academy Award-winning visual effects house WETA Digital, has created a CG character – Caesar – of unprecedented emotion and intelligence, for RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo Credit: WETA TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

20110401 APE SHOTS_RC153_133_V240_006R Academy Award-winning visual effects house WETA Digital, has created a CG character – Caesar – of unprecedented emotion and intelligence, for RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo Credit: WETA TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

ROA-466: On the Golden Gate Bridge, Caesar leads a revolution that will ultimately lead to the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo credit: WETA Digital. TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

ROA-466: On the Golden Gate Bridge, Caesar leads a revolution that will ultimately lead to the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo credit: WETA Digital. TM and ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

“The Change-up” – In Theaters August 5th

“The Change-up” – In Theaters August 5th

“Apes” arriving: Fox’s official website for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is ApesWillRise.com — and, indeed, that’s what they’ve been doing in the tracking.

The big question: Will “Apes,” which has been tracking in high single digits as a first choice to see this weekend, rise significantly by the time it arrives Friday in some 3,500 theatres?

If “Apes” shows enough muscle, Fox’s reboot of its classic chimp franchise will end this summer on the blockbuster note theatre owners are hoping for.

The problem is we’re not talking about a young franchise. The five original “Apes” episodes hit theatres from 1968-73. The unforgettable series launcher, “Planet of the Apes” with its Statue of Liberty shocker of an ending was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (“Patton”) and starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter. Cut to 2001 — Fox grossed over $180 million domestically and another $182 million internationally with a remake of the first “Apes,” directed by Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland”) and starring Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”).

Is “Apes” too old to be on young moviegoers’ radar? Well, you might think so, but the tracking suggests otherwise. In part, that’s thanks to Fox’s first class marketing campaign and, to some extent, it’s because recent cable and satellite TV exposure for the 1968 original has made “Apes” accessible to moviegoers who weren’t even born when the franchise kicked off.

The new film, directed by Rupert Wyatt (“The Escapist”), is a prequel to the original story, which was based on a novel by Pierre Boulle. Starring are James Franco (“The Green Hornet”), Andy Serkis (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) and Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”). It’s tracking best with under-25 males and almost as well with over-25 males. Like most sci-fi films, it’s not very high on female moviegoers’ want-to-see list.

But driven by moviegoing males, “Apes” can climb to the top of this weekend’s boxoffice chart. It helps that DreamWorks, Universal and Relativity Media’s western/sci-fi mash-up “Cowboys & Aliens” underperformed last weekend and shouldn’t pose big competition for the primates.

“Cowboys” opening to about $36 million was way less than the $45 million Hollywood handicappers were anticipating for the $163 million generic hybrid. Its strongest demo was over-25 males, which typically isn’t a great audience to depend on. Since women don’t usually care about westerns or sci-fi, it’s no surprise they didn’t turn out for “Cowboys.” What really hurt was that it didn’t attract the under-25 fanboys who rule the summer boxoffice.

Nonetheless, no one expected “Cowboys” to wind up in a neck and neck first place race with Columbia’s “The Smurfs.” Tracking studies suggested the $110 million 3D animated family comedy would only open to around $30 million. Instead, those cute little blue guys generated an extra $6 million or so in boxoffice green. So this is one more reminder to think twice about tracking when it comes to family films.

At least “Apes” doesn’t have to worry about competing with this weekend’s other wide opening, Universal’s R rated comedy “The Change-Up,” directed by David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) and starring Jason Bateman (“Horrible Bosses”), Ryan Reynolds (“Green Lantern”) and Olivia Wilde (“Cowboys & Aliens”).

“Change-Up,” which is going into about 2,700 theatres, has been tracking in very low single digits as a first choice. It’s good that its strongest demo is under-25 females, but right now those numbers really aren’t big enough to celebrate.

Why “Change-Up” isn’t tracking better is a good question without a good answer since R rated romantic comedies have been sizzling this summer. That list includes: “Bridesmaids” ($165 million-plus domestically), “The Hangover, Part 2” ($252 million-plus), “Bad Teacher,” ($96 million-plus), “Horrible Bosses” ($96 million-plus) and “Friends With Benefits” ($38 million-plus after two weeks). The answer may be that young moviegoers have had their fill of gross-out summer comedies by now or — who knows? — maybe “Change-Up” isn’t gross enough!

However, since most of those comedies have already done most of their boxoffice business, for anybody who wants to see an R rated comedy, “Change-Up’s” the only new one around. It also helps that last weekend’s comedy, Warner Bros. and Carousel Productions’ “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” starring Steve Carell (“Dinner For Schmucks”) and Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”), is rated PG-13 and opened modestly to about $19 million.

Bottom line: “Apes” will rise if its tracking keeps rising and that’s just what Hollywood needs to make August a wild month at the boxoffice.