ME CAESAR, YOU LAME The scene-stealing breakout star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes consoles his fleshy human pal

Apes and aliens and smurfs, oh my! After last weekend’s down-to-the-wire box office battle between The Smurfs and Cowboys And Aliens, this frame brings us two more new releases, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Change-Up, both fighting for box office glory. Which will succeed and which will fall? Check out my box office predictions below:

Sure, this $90 million Fox prequel stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, and Andy Serkis, but if we’re being honest, none of those actors are real box office draws. The main attraction of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is simpler: pure nostalgia. Fans of the 1968 original turned out in droves for Tim Burton’s 2001 remake, which grossed a strong $180 million at the box office, and a solid audience will probably check out Rise as well.

Fox has given the action film a big advertising push in recent weeks, emphasizing the impressive special effects utilized in the production, and the animal adventure has surprised just about everyone by earning such strong reviews overall. With a clearer storyline, a wide release in 3,648 locations, and a connection to an already established brand, Apes will likely surpass the $36.4 million Cowboys and Aliens earned last weekend and rise to $42 million in three days. (Side note: Jersey Shore is currently playing on MTV. It just occurred to me that that the simultaneous premieres of Jersey Shore and Rise of the Planet of the Apes could be part of the most synergistic marketing campaign ever, because, really, what’s the difference?)

2. The Smurfs: $23 million

Since The Smurfs‘ debut last week, the itty bitty blue guys have garnered box office results that are anything but, and they’re likely to continue that trend this weekend. Family films tend to fall softly after opening weekend, and although you might not agree with it, The Smurfs‘ “A-” CinemaScore grade means it’s likely experiencing strong word-of-mouth. The 3-D affair has played remarkably well over the course of the week, pulling in $15.5 million on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday alone, and beating Cowboys and Aliens handily each day. Sony’s other kiddie flick, Zookeeper, fell by a scant 39 percent in its second weekend, despite competition from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. With so much momentum behind it, and with no similar competitors entering theaters, Smurfs may do even better, dropping just 35 percent to $23 million.

3. The Change-Up: $16 million

As any box office aficionado knows, this has been the summer of the R-rated comedy. The Hangover Part II has earned a ginormous $253.2 million. Bridesmaids has pulled in $165.8 million. Bad Teacher has $97.1 million so far. Horrible Bosses will cross the $100 million mark today. Clearly, this sort of fare has been popular. But when Friends With Benefits opened to a lukewarm $18.6 million opening two weeks ago, it suggested that maybe audiences were nearing their consumption limit of raunchy comedies in one summer.

Now, Universal’s $52 million Jason Bateman/Ryan Reynolds body-switch comedy, The Change-Up, is hoping to join in on the box office fun. Frankly, though, tracking has been very discouraging, pointing the film towards an opening in the low double digits. I think the film will do a bit better than that — Jason Bateman has accrued some goodwill with audiences with Horrible Bosses, and people seem to genuinely like Ryan Reynolds (just not Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern). Poor reviews won’t help the film in the long run, but they shouldn’t affect it too much this weekend. Playing in 2,913 theaters, The Change-Up may earn $16 million.

4. Cowboys and Aliens: $15 million

It may have just edged out The Smurfs last weekend, but you can rest assured that Cowboys And Aliens will fall a whole lot faster. The $163 million sci-fi western is exactly the kind of genre film that fanboys rush out to see on opening weekend, which almost always guarantees a hefty second weekend decline. On top of this, Rise of the Planet of the Apes will provide huge competition, and Cowboys‘ so-so “B” CinemaScore grade won’t elicit much positive word-of-mouth. Captain America fell by 61 percent in its second frame, and if its underwhelming weekday grosses are any indication, Cowboys And Aliens is headed for a similarly steep drop and a sad $15 million weekend.

For tentpole releases, third weekend drops tend to be mercifully less steep than second weekend declines. (The most recent Harry Potter flick fell by 72 percent in its second weekend, and then 53 percent in the next frame.) For Captain America, that means the superhero film is headed for a drop of about 45-50 percent this weekend down to $13 million, which would push Cappy’s total to a solid $143 million.

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
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