Box Office: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Headed for $70 Million Debut

Fox's sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes thumped its chest at the Friday box office, grossing an estimated $27.7 million in North America in 3,967 locations. That sets it up for a weekend debut that has $70 million in its crosshairs.

The critically acclaimed sequel is pacing well ahead of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which bowed to $54.8 million in August 2011. Thursday night, Dawn took in $4.1 million as it began rolling out in select theaters, compared to $1.3 million for Rise. Both films earned an A- CinemaScore.

Richard Linklater's high-profile indie drama Boyhood also found an eager audience in the five theaters in New York and Los Angeles where it opened in limited release for IFC Films. The movie, drawing rave reviews, attracted $102,161 for a per-theater average of $20,432, setting up an opening weekend that will easily top the $300,000 mark.

Transformers: Age of Extinction, which held the top spot for the past two weekends, moved into the second position Friday as the Paramount release collected $4.8  million. Michael Bay's vfx-spectacular will pass the $200 million mark at the domestic box office today.

Warner Bros.' Tammy, starring Melissa McCarthy, was in third place with just over $4 million for the day.

22 Jump Street, entering its fifth weekend, ranked fourth. The Sony comedy, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, grossed just over $2 million as it looks to increase its domestic coffers to more than $170 million this weekend.

Two family-oriented films were virtually tied for fifth place. Relativity's Earth to Echo and Fox's release of DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon 2 each pulled in an estimated $1.75 million for the day. Dragon is looking to cross the $150 million domestic line this weekend.

Entering its third weekend, Dinesh D'Souza's documentary polemic America grossed $723,000 in 1,105 locations. The Lionsgate release is expected to total about $2.15 million this weekend, which will bring its domestic tally to just under $8 million.

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Directed by Matt Reeves, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes features Andy Serkis returning in the role of Caesar the ape, who has decamped to the forest of Marin County with hundreds of other genetically evolved apes and primates. When they are threatened by a band of humans who have survived a worldwide plague, a fierce divide erupts asking whether peace can be restored, or whether war is the only way to determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

Peter Chernin's Chernin Entertainment developed and produced both Apes movies.

The sequel, financed by Fox at an estimated $170 million, opens three years after origin movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes reinvigorated the iconic franchise. That film, directed by Rupert Wyatt, took in a strong $481.8 million at the worldwide box office, including $176.8 million in North America.

This time out, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Enrique Murciano and Kirk Acevedo are featured in the human cast. Reeves directed from a script by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, based on the characters created by Jaffa and Silver.

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As with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel is drawing widespread praise for its use of motion capture. It's also being released in 3D.

Hollywood is hopeful the weekend will restore some balance to the domestic box office, where Fourth of July weekend revenue was down a steep 44 percent from last year, leading to a summer revenue decline of nearly 20 percent.

Overseas, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins its initial assault, rolling out in 28 territories, including major markets Australia and South Korea. The tentpole is waiting to open in many larger markets because of the bottleneck created by the World Cup.

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Linklater's Boyhood, which is heating up the specialty box office, won the best directing award at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival following its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Boyhood, starring Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Ellar Coltrane, was shot intermittently over a 12-year period in order to chronicle the story of a boy as he grows up in a divorced household.

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