And the Apes shall inherit the box office.
The long-gestating reinterpretation of Planet of the Apes, courtesy of director Tim Burton, should reign supreme this weekend.
Such is the anticipation surrounding this return trip to a simian-dominated society that no other new films will open in wide release Friday. Instead, Planet of the Apes' sole competition comes in the form of Jurassic Park III's flesh-devouring spinosaurus and those poor souls it considers dinner. Barring some unforeseen disaster, Apes should enjoy one of the summer's biggest openings, perhaps in the $50 million range.
Burton's vision of the classic sci-fi political allegory will doubtless appeal to fans of the original film and admirers of the maverick director. If anyone knows how to revive a once-stagnant series--such as Batman--it's Burton.
Of course, whether audiences will appreciate the differences between the two Apes could prove substantial in the long-term success of Burton's $100 million endeavor. Unlike the original, Burton's Apes does not take place on earth and consequently features a new surprise ending. But is Mark Wahlberg--stepping in for Charlton Heston--man enough to persuade those damned dirty apes to take their stinkin' paws off the stranded astronaut?
Time also will tell whether Apes can generate as large a profit that as the 1968 original, which cost under $6 million to produce and earned $26 million in the United States alone.
While its chills and spills may not measure up to its Steven Spielberg-directed predecessors, Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III nevertheless proved its worth commercially during its first eight days in release. Through Wednesday, Jurassic Park III has earned $97.7 million, with $100 million a likely prospect by Thursday. In comparison, 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park made a record-breaking $92.7 million in its first four days, but it had the benefit of a Memorial Day weekend launch.
So, Jurassic Park III still has a lot of ground to cover if it is to exceed The Lost World's eventual $229.1 million gross (Jurassic Park made $357 million). This Herculean task will be made all the more daunting by Apes, which will likely siphon away much of Jurassic Park III's core male audience.
In fact, Jurassic Park III's raptors could find themselves outwitted by Julia Roberts and company. America's Sweethearts, an inside look at a Hollywood press junket gone awry, scored a terrific $30.1 million during its first weekend. This ranks as Roberts' second-best opening, behind Runaway Bride's $35 million in 1999. The ensemble comedy, with its six-day total at $40.6 million, could remain the destination of choice for those eager to avoid an encounter with malevolent apes or rampaging dinosaurs. If so, America's Sweethearts has every chance of surpassing Runaway Bride's $152 million gross.
Former box office queen Legally Blonde put up an admirable fight against America's Sweethearts, earning $11 million during its second weekend. With its total now at $49 million through Wednesday, the Reese Witherspoon Harvard romp should easily strut its way past such summer teen comedy sleepers as 1995's Clueless and 2000's Bring It On.
The Score looks likely to rank as one of Robert De Niro's biggest non-comedy hits in years. With its $40.9 million haul through Wednesday, The Score has already made more than this year's 15 Minutes and 1997's Jackie Brown. The Score will certainly surpass 1998's Ronin ($41.6 million), 1997's Cop Land ($44.8 million) and 2000's Men of Honor ($48.8 million) sooner than later. But it's doubtful that there's enough loot to go around for The Score to surpass 1991's Cape Fear ($77.3 million) and 1995's Heat ($86.3 million).
The news remains grim for several high-profile releases thoroughly rejected by audiences. Scary Movie 2, at $63.2 million, will likely stall at $70 million, a major disappointment considering last year's Scary Movie made $157 million. Atlantis, at $77.4 million, will be the second consecutive Disney animated adventure not to hit $100 million. The very expensive Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, at $28.5 million, looks set to become the summer's biggest turkey. A.I. Artificial Intelligence, at $74.5 million, is certain to be the first Steven Spielberg-directed summer release not to make $100 million.
Still, Spielberg should take heart that his executive produced Jurassic Park III put the roar back in the box office. Last weekend, receipts stood at $145 million, up 5.3 percent up from the $138 million earned the same weekend last year. Also, last weekend was only the second weekend ever to feature two films that each opened with $30 million. This, combined with the upcoming releases of Planet of the Apes, Rush Hour 2 and American Pie 2, should bode well for a strong second half of an otherwise ho-hum summer.