"Apes" hangs on to domestic box office lead

LOS ANGELES Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:39pm EDT

Cast members James Franco and Freida Pinto pose at the premiere of ''Rise of the Planet of the Apes'' at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California July 28, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Cast members James Franco and Freida Pinto pose at the premiere of ''Rise of the Planet of the Apes'' at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California July 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nothing could stop angry apes from tearing through the domestic weekend box office as "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" took the lead with an estimated $27.5 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales plus $40.5 million internationally.

The revival of the classic sci-fi franchise beat four new releases to hang on to the top ranking at U.S. and Canadian theaters for the second straight week, according to studio estimates released on Sunday. Civil Rights-era drama "The Help" finished a strong second with $25.5 million over three days, beating studio forecasts.

The U.S. and Canadian audience for "Apes" shrunk 50 percent from its opening weekend. The drop was "a fantastic hold" against four new films that grossed a combined $60 million, said Chris Aronson, senior vice president for domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox, which distributed the movie. "Apes" brought in a total of $68 million globally for the weekend.

Strong reviews and a rare A+ rating from audience-survey firm CinemaScore propelled "The Help," a film based on a best-selling book by Kathryn Stockett. The movie chronicles the lives of wealthy white women in Mississippi and their black housekeepers. It cost about $25 million to produce.

"The Help" appealed to broad audiences across the country and drew positive responses from men as well as the core audience of women, said Dave Hollis, executive vice president for motion picture sales and distribution at Walt Disney Co, which distributed the DreamWorks-produced film.

"This is a most pleasant surprise," Hollis said of the opening weekend sales. Disney expects to add another 100 to 200 additional theaters after the early success sparked more interest, he said. The film was showing in 2,534 theaters over the opening weekend after debuting on Wednesday. Over five days, the film grossed $35.4 million.

STRONG SHOWING FOR 'THE SMURFS'

In third place for the weekend, horror flick and new release "Final Destination 5," in which survivors of a bridge collapse try to cheat death, generated $18.4 million domestically. That hit the low end of studio forecasts.

Surprise summer hit "The Smurfs" took fourth place on the domestic charts with $13.5 million during its third weekend in theaters, plus an impressive $60 million haul in international markets for the live-action and animated family film.

Comedy "30 Minutes or Less," starring Jesse Eisenberg, finished fifth with $13 million at the domestic box office. The movie tells the tale of two criminals who kidnap a pizza delivery boy, strap a bomb to his chest and order him to rob a bank. The production budget was $28 million.

The weekend's other new release, "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," failed to crack the top 10 with $5.7 million domestically, making it No. 11 for the weekend. The film pairs song-and-dance performances from a "Glee" concert tour with commentary from fans of the hit television show about an Ohio high school's show choir. The movie cost $9 million to make and is scheduled for just two weeks in theaters.

"Final Destination 5" was distributed by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp, released "30 Minutes or Less" and "The Smurfs."

"Planet of the Apes" and "Glee: the 3D Concert Movie" were released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Eric Beech)

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