Box Office Preview: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Aims to Continue Summer Boom

 Twentieth Century Fox

Summer box office revenues in North America are up 4% over last year and Hollywood's hoping the dog days of August prove just as healthy.

July alone brought in $1.4 billion in revenues -- the biggest month of all time at the domestic box office, fueled by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, plus a raft of comedies.

However, revenues year-to-date are still down 5% over 2010, thanks to a dramatic downturn in moviegoing the first part of the year. The film business hopes that August will help to close the gap further.

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August used to be a graveyard for movies, but not longer. A number of high-profile movies unspool this month, beginning on Friday with 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an origins pic designed to revive the cult sci-fi franchise.

Rise of the Apes, produced for $93 million, is widely expected to win the domestic box office with a gross of $30 million or more. The pic rolls out overseas in more than 25 territories, including some key markets in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Men of all ages are most interested in the film, followed by older women. The movie’s unaided awareness was notably low but nearly doubled in the past two days.

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Fox has no easy task in convincing moviegoers to scrub from their memories Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes, which was roundly rejected by critics and audiences. So far, Rise of the Apes is receiving rave reviews, which the studio hopes will translate into strong traffic at the multiplex this weekend and good legs throughout the dog days of August.

Just as the original Planet of the Apes — starring Charlton Heston — was a defining moment for its time, so is Rise of the Apes.

Every simian in Rise of the Apes was created using state-of-the-art performance capture technology developed by Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital for Fox and James Cameron’s Avatar. The technology, perfected even further, makes the ape played by Andy Serkis completely realistic.

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Rise of the Apes is the first title from Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark’s Chernin Entertainment and will be a sizable feather in the company’s cap if it indeed revives the franchise.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Apes also stars James Franco, Frida Pinto and John Lithgow.

The pic was co-financed by Fox and partners Dune Entertainment and Ingenious.

Elsewhere, another raunchy comedy opens this weekend at the domestic box office — David Dobkin’s Ryan Reynolds-Jason Bateman starrer The Change-Up. The R-rated film, from Universal, also stars Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin.

Tracking is on the softer side, with the body-switching comedy only expected to reach the mid-teens, tops. Universal hopes for strong legs, pointing out that comedies can have great multiples.

Universal and Relativity Media co-financed the $52 million film, which doesn’t launch overseas until Aug. 11.

Among holdovers, Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens is expected to take a hit because of Rise of the Apes, but just how big is the question.

Sony’s holdover The Smurfs will remain a strong contender in its second weekend and could come in No. 2.

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