By Grady Smith
Updated August 06, 2011 at 04:59 PM EDT
Rise Apes 3
Credit: Joe Lederer

Audiences went ape for Rise of the Planet of the Apes at the box office on Friday, pushing the film into the top spot by a wide margin. According to estimates, Rise earned a terrific $19.8 million on opening day, and if it can keep up that kind of momentum, it could be looking at a $55 million weekend.

After it earned a so-so $1.25 million at midnight showings, some prognosticators assumed that Apes was headed for an underwhelming weekend gross, but clearly that’s not going to happen. I think what we’re seeing here is a wave of nostalgic older consumers who loved the 1968 original Planet of the Apes but don’t feel the fanboy-ish need to rush out to the theater at 12 a.m. or even on opening day. In May, 2009, Star Trek, which also appealed to a nostalgic fan base, opened with $26.9 million on Friday and then bumped up to an even stronger $27.2 million on Saturday. Apes could experience a similar bump, which would guarantee an opening above $50 million. Of course, young people are seeing the movie too (we’ll have demographic results in the box office report tomorrow), and perhaps my assumptions about audience age are all wrong and the film will plummet from here on out. I doubt that will happen, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

In second place were the Belgian blue buddies who almost took down Cowboys And Aliens last weekend, The Smurfs. The 3D kiddie flick fell 55 percent from last Friday to $6 million, but with a big family-friendly bump over the rest of the weekend, it’s headed for a $20 million frame and $75 million total by tomorrow night. Cowboys And Aliens, meanwhile, dove 64 percent from last Friday to $4.7 million, and it’s not likely to recover as well as Smurfs. Give Cowboys $15 million for the weekend.

In fourth place was the weekend’s other new release, Universal’s The Change-Up, which underperformed with a weak $4.7 million on Friday. Perhaps, as I suggested, audiences have had their fill of raunchy comedies this summer. The body-switch comedy will likely pull in $14 million over the weekend, a far cry from the $28.3 million that Jason Bateman’s last comedy, Horrible Bosses, earned in its first three days. (I’ll save the Ryan Reynolds discussion for tomorrow.) In fifth and sixth were Captain America: The First Avenger and Crazy, Stupid, Love., which earned $3.8 million and $3.7 million, respectively. Both films are headed for weekends in the $12 million range.

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $19.8 mil

2. The Smurfs – $6 mil

3. Cowboys And Aliens – $4.7 mil

4. The Change-Up – $4.7 mil

5. Captain America: The First Avenger – $3.8 mil

6. Crazy, Stupid, Love. – $3.7 mil

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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