Last weekend may have signaled a new Dawn for the Planet of the Apes franchise, as its latest film exceeded studio and analyst expectations with a $72.6 million debut. But Caesar and the gang face some formidable cross-genre competition this weekend, when Sex Tape, The Purge: Anarchy, and Planes: Fire & Rescue all hit theaters in wide release. With a steep drop-off expected for Apes and a lack of decent horror, family, and raunchy comedy fare on the market, all are tracking pretty similarly, making this summer weekend a rare box office wild card.
Here’s how things might play out:
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—$34 million
This might be controversial, but even with a 55 percent drop-off, Apes could hold on to the No. 1 spot for the second weekend in a row. Great reviews and word-of-mouth buzz in a landscape void of decent blockbusters are nothing to scoff at. The $170 million pic has made nearly $100 million domestically, making Fox the first studio to pass the $1 billion mark in 2014. It’ll also start to really rake in the international dollars as it expands to more markets now that the World Cup is over.
2. The Purge: Anarchy—$31 million
The next three new pics could go any way, really. The Purge: Anarchy debuts in late night Thursday showings and might have a slight advantage over the others, just because audiences haven’t had a decent horror pic to devour this summer. Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s Frank Grillo and Friday Night Lights’s Zach Gilford star in the sequel to last year’s surprise hit from writer-director James DeMonaco, who created a society where killing is legal for one night. Ethan Hawke led up the cast of the first, which cost only $3 million to produce and took in an incredible $34.1 million when it opened in early June. Universal’s sequel cost a bit more—a reported $9 million—and doesn’t have a name as recognizable as Hawke’s to draw in the uninitiated, but this new take is getting slightly better reviews with a 48 percent Rotten Tomatoes average as of Thursday.
3. Sex Tape—$29 million
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel star in the raunchy R-rated comedy about a couple who lose their sex tape in the cloud and go on a hunt to find it. They’ve reunited with their Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan for the new pic, which has not been a critical favorite. It’s currently at a bleak 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. EW’s Leah Greenblatt gave it a C+. She writes: “It’s clumsy and wacky and intermittently amusing, and Rob Lowe looks like he’s having a great time playing Real-Life Ned Flanders With a Deeply Weird Side once again.” With a $40 million price tag and a 3,062 screen theatrical debut, the Columbia Pictures pic should bring in around $30 million opening weekend—somewhat on par with Bad Teacher’s $31.6 million opening in 2011. Word of mouth made the $20 million Bad Teacher a sleeper hit as it climbed to a final $100.3 million gross domestically after 16 weeks in release, but that might not be in the cards for this one.
4. Planes: Fire & Rescue—$24 million
The debut of Disney and Pixar’s Planes sequel in 3,826 locations will certainly draw in families hungry for a fresh PG-rated pic. The first film opened to $22 million and went on to gross over $90 million domestically, but it was also competing with The Smurfs 2, Despicable Me 2 and Turbo. This one, which cost a reported $50 million to produce, will likely open a bit higher just because there aren’t really other options out there for families. EW’s Stephan Lee gave the pic a B. He writes: “Sure, Pixar’s Cars franchise and its aviation spin-off, Planes, are perhaps less stimulating to adults than Toy Story or WALL•E. But it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that to lots of 6-year-olds, Planes: Fire & Rescue is pretty much the coolest movie ever.”
5. Transformers: Age of Extinction—$8 million
T4 has already made $215.4 million domestically and over $755 million worldwide. It won’t reach the domestic gross heights of its predecessors, but international is really what matters here—and, overseas, it’s doing just fine.
In the specialty box office world, Focus Features is releasing Zach Braff’s family dramedy Wish I Was Here in 60 theaters and Fox Searchlight debuts its spiritual sci-fi pic I Origins in four locations.
Check back in this weekend for estimates and analysis.