By Grady Smith
Updated August 07, 2011 at 04:35 PM EDT
Richard Cartwright

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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Now here’s some monkey business that everyone in Hollywood will take seriously! Rise of the Planet of the Apes conquered the box office with a tremendous $54 million in its debut weekend. The $90 million Fox reboot/prequel exceeded all expectations and churned out the fifth-best August opening of all time. And it did it all without any of that pesky 3D!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes played primarily to an older male crowd. According to exit polling, 56 percent of the audience was male, while 59 percent were over the age of 25. Notably, 20 percent of the audience was at least 50 years old—perhaps fans of the original 1968 film. For the most part, viewers liked what they saw, as they gave Rise a strong “A-” CinemaScore grade. The success of Rise serves all of its stars well. James Franco rebounded from the lackuluster performance of Your Highness, which only grossed $21.6 million earlier this year, and he likely has a new blockbuster franchise to star in while he pursues artsy side projects, Frieda Pinto finally has another hit under her belt after her only other wide release, Slumdog Millionaire, and Andy Serkis proved that motion-capture may be a viable pursuit at the box office.

The well-reviewed, effects-heavy sequel, which earned a robust $14,803 per theater average, has a bright future ahead of it. With strong word-of-mouth and no new action films debuting until Conan the Barbarian hits theaters in two weeks, Rise of the Planet of the Apes could remain the box office chimp champ next weekend as well.

In second place, The Smurfs continued to defy its awful reviews, dropping only 41 percent to $21 million in its sophomore weekend. The 3D flick has earned $76.2 milliion so far, and it now seems on track to earn about $135 million overall. While that is certainly a strong number, Smurfs carries a surprisingly hefty $110 million budget (that’s not including the advertising budget), and it will need to perform well overseas for the film to be considered a real success.

Another film with a huge budget? Cowboys And Aliens, Universal’s $163 million tentpole that failed to break out last weekend. In its second frame, the sci-fi/western hybrid fell by a large 57 percent to $15.7 million, giving it a ten-day total of $67.4 million. Cowboys And Aliens had a lot working against it this weekend. First off, there was the fanboy effect—sci-fi fans tend to rush out to the theater on opening weekend to see these niche movies, and that frontloaded excitement leads to large second weekend drops. Next, there was the direct competition from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, another movie playing primarily to older males. Finally, there was the discouraging “B” CinemaScore grade, a signifier of weak word-of-mouth. At this point, Cowboys will be lucky to hit $100 million total.

Cowboys And Aliens‘ poor box office performance also represents another loss on Daniel Craig’s surprisingly awful box office track record. Outside of the Bond franchise, it seems that everything the British actor touches sinks at the box office. His Nicole Kidman collab, 2007’s The Invasion, earned only $15.1 million against an $80 million budget. His $180 million fantasy adaptation The Golden Compass grossed just $70 million later that year. In 2009, Defiance‘s $28.6 million gross couldn’t match its $32 million budget. And now, he has the underwhelming Cowboys And Aliens. Time to put your Bond suit back on, buddy.

In fourth place was The Change-Up , another Universal film that couldn’t catch a break at the box office. The Change-Up, a $52 million Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman body-switch comedy, finished what Friends With Benefits started two weeks ago—it officially ended the R-rated hot streak at the box office, grossing just $13.5 million in its debut weekend. For Reynolds, this marks a second straight box office disappointment, following Green Lantern‘s poor performance earlier this summer. For Bateman, it marks a major step back from his last film, Horrible Bosses, which started with $28.3 million and has now earned $105.2 million total. The Change-Up only managed a $4,635 per theater average, and the so-so “B” CinemaScore grade it earned from audiences (which were 58 percent female) doesn’t bode well for its future, either. After a summer of raunchy comedies dominating the box office, I suppose it was time for a misfire.

Captain America: The First Avenger held onto fifth place, falling 49 percent to $13 million. After a strong $65.1 million opening, the superhero film has fallen faster than Paramount would probably prefer, but its $143.2 million total in 17 days is nothing to shake a stick at. Thor had grossed $145.4 million at the same point in its run, but Cappy has faced much more direct sci-fi competition than Thor did, and The First Avenger could still reach $180 million when all is said and done.

Two other films finished in the double-digit range. In sixth, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 fell 45 percent to $12.2 million, and it has now grossed $342.8 million overall. Crazy, Stupid, Love. followed close behind, dropping a slim 37 percent in its second weekend to $12.1 million and a $42.2 million total

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $54 mil

2. The Smurfs – $21 mil

3. Cowboys And Aliens – $15.8 mil

4. The Change-Up – $13.5 mil

5. Captain America: The First Avenger – $13 mil

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – $12.2

6. Crazy, Stupid, Love. – $12.1 mil

8. Friends With Benefits – $4.7 mil

9. Horrible Bosses – $4.6 mil

10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – $3.0 mil

For more up-to-the-minute box office updates, follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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