'Kingdom of Planet of the Apes' climbs to top of box office

More than five decades since a group of astronauts led by Charlton Heston took a ill-fated journey to a strange world, moviegoers are still ape over the “Planet of the Apes” franchise.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” the latest entry in the series of films about a planet ruled by talking apes, made a smash debut over the weekend, ruling the box office chart with a monster $56.5 million. It’s the third highest opening of the year, after the $81.5-million debut of “Dune: Part Two” in early March and the $58.3-million domestic opening of “Kung Fu Panda 4” a week later.

The performance of the film was particularly impressive, coming seven years after a trilogy that concluded with “War of the Planet of the Apes.” Unlike previous installments, “Kingdom” has no well-known stars as a lure for audiences.

In second place was “The Fall Guy,” the stunt-heavy action film that had a lackluster launch last week. The movie declined a respectable 51% with $13.7 million for a total of $49.7 million. The movie’s less-than-expected opening last week signaled that the summer of 2024 is likely to see a major drop-off after the “Barbenheimer” magic of 2023.

The steamy tennis romance “Challengers,” with $4.7 million, the horror movie “Tarot,” with $3.5 million, and “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” with $2.5 million, rounded out the top five films. In sixth through 10th places were “Unsung Hero,” $2.25 million, “Kung Fu Panda 4,” $2 million, “Civil War,” $1.8 million, “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace,” $1.5 million, “Abigail,” $1.1 million.

“Planet of the Apes” easily made more than the rest of the top 10 combined.

The opening for “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” directed by Wes Ball, was the second best in the series, after the $72-million opening weekend of 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” It’s the 10th movie in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise that began in 1968.

“Kingdom” came with strong reviews and positive buzz (80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a “B” CinemaScore). Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press called it “thrilling” and “visually stunning.”

Looking ahead, this week sees the release of the comedy “If,” starring Ryan Reynolds, and the Amy Winehouse biopic “Back to Black.” The week after, Memorial Day weekend, brings “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and “The Garfield Movie.”

Estimated ticket sales are for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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