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|July 30, 2001||
Apes has a home run
Arthur J Pais
Laughing at the critics who complained that the film was soulless, the new simian extravaganza, Planet Of The Apes, emerged as this summer's King Kong, grabbing at least $ 69 million this weekend in North America.
Even if the $ 100 million film follows the current trend of blockbusters losing about 50 per cent of the box office in the second week, it could end up with over $ 200 million.
If the apes prove to have stronger legs, they could try to overtake the animated hit, Shrek, which is winding its North American run with about $ 265 million, the highest gross so far this year.
Director Tim Burton, who describes his film as a 're-imagination' of the 1968 sci-fi classic, generally got praise for the film's stunning look, as well as for getting good performances from his actors whose make up as apes is far more interesting than in the first Planet film and its four sequels.
For Mark Wahlberg, who plays an astronaut stranded on a planet ruled by apes (a role made memorable by Charlton Heston in 1968), this could be the biggest hit of his career as yet. His The Perfect Storm grossed about $ 185 million in America a year ago and went on to earn about $ 150 million abroad, making him a big international star.
Wahlberg, who reportedly received $ 15 million for Planet could get $ 20 million for the next installment of the ape saga, industry sources believe.
"You're dealing with three things here,'' Bruce Snyder, head of distribution, Twentieth 20th Century Fox, which released the film, told reporters on Sunday. "You're dealing with the concept of Planet Of The Apes, you're dealing with Tim Burton and you're dealing with Mark Wahlberg. It became an event."
It was an excellent week at the box office for Fox. Dr Dolittle 2, starring Eddie Murphy as the doctor who talks to animals, crossed the $ 100 million benchmark. As it ends its first run, the comedy is expected to earn about $ 110 million in North America.
Planet Of The Apes did not face competition from any major new release this week. Next week, it will have to fight for the top position with Rush Hour 2, an action comedy starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.
The first Rush Hour, which paired Tucker and Chan for the first time, made over $ 400 million worldwide, with about $ 180 million coming from North America. The unexpected success of that film propelled Tucker's fee from $ 8 million to $ 20 million for the sequel.
The ape stampede ate heavily into the box-office of films that were hot last week. Everybody from the dinosaurs to Julia Roberts got hit in the process.
Jurassic Park III, which lost about 55 percent of its clout, slipped to No 2 with $ 22.5 million, followed by the Julia Roberts romantic comedy about Hollywood, America's Sweethearts, with $ 15.7 million.
Though the latter is expected to end its American run with about $ 90 million and is considered a success, its box office is far below of Roberts' recent hits including Erin Brokovich that grossed over $ 125 million.
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