Weekend Box Office: 'Apes' Dominates 'The Help'; One Franchise Reaches Its 'Final Destination'

All is forgiven between the public and the “Planet Of The Apes” franchise. This relationship seemed on the outs as soon as Tim Burton gave us Apebraham Lincoln a decade ago, but “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” has healed all wounds. While not keeping pace with that last Apeventure, ‘Rise’ has still taken only two weekends to cross $100 million at a much lower cost, a total no one at Fox was expecting. When the dust settles, this offering, which held well-enough to suggest strong word-of-mouth, will have outdistanced many of its genre companions from this summer, particularly those benefiting from the 3D price bump.

‘Apes’ took advantage of an August weekend cluttered with a few mid-level attractions, and the only one to stand out from the pack was “The Help.” This is Emma Stone’s third film of the summer, but her only starring role, and as such, this opening easily skates by the first frames of either “Friends With Benefits” or “Crazy Stupid Love,” neither of which ever fully utilized her in their ad campaigns. Receiving an A+ Cinemascore and doing strong business since a robust Wednesday opening, this movie could certainly play well into September. With “The Amazing Spider-Man” coming next summer, it’s safe to say Emma Stone is approaching A-List status. Go on, say it. Feels good.

Could this be the very final “Final Destination”? Coming off the highest-grossing entry in the series, “Final Destination 5” saw a significant downturn from its predecessor’s opening. It may not even reach the opening numbers of non-3D “Final Destination 3,” which stings given how much this series relies on being one big gimmick, one that the 3D was supposed to heavily highlight. Lost amidst the excitement over the grosses of “The Final Destination” was that the series had actually registered its lowest overall attendance numbers, so this opening is a pretty hefty drop, with the suggestion that the base for these films has actually shrunk by an extreme amount. The series is not expensive, and 3D films usually kill overseas (the last picture registered a $119 million overseas number), but this is certainly a sign that horror fans aren’t as enthusiastic about this series as they once were.

Registering the lowest drop in the top ten was “The Smurfs,” which should continue to hang around as there isn’t exactly a surplus of kiddie fare coming out, and next week’s “Spy Kids” isn’t really lighting tracking reports on fire. “Smurfs” easily crosses $100 million this weekend, and with overseas receipts, it’s become easy to categorize as a definitive smash for Sony. The film continues to brutalize release date mate “Cowboys And Aliens,” which may not even pass nine figures and is dropping harder than other current top ten releases. Not a wise investment, that one.
Action comedies are usually a tough sell, and “30 Minutes Or Less” was no exception. Was it a glib action movie, or a high-speed comedy? It was marketed on the shoulders of “Zombieland,” and the ads struck the same tenor of irreverent humor, but they didn’t replace the horror angle with anything clear. Danny McBride has unfortunately become ubiquitous faster than he’s become a star, creating a turn-off affect for some audience members who sense oversaturation, while Jesse Eisenberg remains a hard-sell as a leading man. “Captain America: The First Avenger” is winding down, and will lose a major amount of its 3D screens to the three releases coming next week in that format. It looks like the Captain will fall short of the domestic tally of “Thor,” though overseas receipts are encouraging thus far.

Warner Bros. has to be pleased with “Crazy Stupid Love,” which should finish in the neighborhood of $65-$70 million. It stayed above “Harry Potter,” which continues to build on its margin ahead of every single 2011 release thus far, and the film is likely to be the year’s biggest when 2011 comes to a close. With ‘Love,’ ‘Potter,’ “The Hangover Part II” and “Horrible Bosses,” Warner Bros. has had a remarkably strong summ- oh, wait, “Green Lantern” happened. Speaking of which, collapsing in tenth place was “The Change-Up,” an altogether huge rejection of the film from the general public, and yet another confirmation that Ryan Reynolds is not a star — to say any more at this point, would just be cruel. The news also wasn’t so rosy for the fourth wide release of the weekend, Fox’s cheap cash-in “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie,” which opened outside of the top ten with $5.7 million. Successful TV show, yes. Niche brand name? Probably.

In indie theaters, one of the year’s biggest debuts was “Senna.” The racing doc took in $66k on only two screens, the second best per-screen debut of the year behind “Bill Cunningham: New York.” The only other indie debut was doc “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow,” which tallied $7k in one location. The biggest indie draw of the week continued to be “Sarah’s Key,” which expanded to 101 locations and generated $467k, pushing its total to $2 million.

Also registering strong indie numbers was “The Guard,” which took in $279k on its third weekend for a three week tally of $66k on only forty eight screens. “The Whistleblower” has a solid expansion, with a second weekend take of $113k at only twenty two locations. The news was bad for “Attack The Block,” which went from eight to forty screens, only managing $100k on a weak per-screen, suggesting a wider expansion may not be in the cards. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. Rise Of The Planet of The Apes (Fox) – $27.5 million (domestic total: $104 mil.)(worldwide total: $179 million)
2. White Girl Saves Mammy (Dreamworks/Disney) – $25.7 million (domestic total: $35.5 mil.)
3. A Fifth Destination Most Final (Warner Bros.) – $18.4 million
4. The Smurfs (Sony) – $13.5 million (domestic total: $102 mil.)(worldwide total: $242 million)
5. 30 Minutes Or Less (Sony) – $13 million
6. Cowpokes And Extra-Terrestrials (Dreamworks/Universal) – $7.6 million (domestic total: $81 mil.)(worldwide total: $88 million)
7. Captain Ubermensch: Die, Nazis, Die! (Paramount) – $7.1 million (domestic total: $157 mil.)(worldwide total: $285 million)
8. Amor Loco Y Estupido (Warner Bros.) – $6.9 million (domestic total: $55 mil.)
9. Harry Potter And His Wands And Lasers And Metaphors For Growing Up (Warner Bros.) – $6.9 million (domestic total: $357 mil.)(worldwide total: $1.2 billion)
10. The Change-Up (Universal) – $6.2 million (domestic total: $26 mil.)