War for the Planet of the Apes, the third entry in Fox’s acclaimed sci-fi reboot franchise, earned $22.1 million on its first Friday, including $5m in Thursday previews.
For reference, rises of the Planet of the Apes kicked off the new franchise in August of 2011, with a $1.3m midnight preview gross which led to a $19.5m opening Friday and $54.8m debut weekend, all in glorious 2D. Three years later, in mid-July, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes earned $4.1m in Thursday previews (around $4.5m adjusted for inflation) that started at 10:00 pm that led to a $27.6m Friday and a $72.6m debut weekend thanks partially (but not entirely) to a 3D conversion.
The film opened 21% lower than Dawn (27% if adjusted for inflation) and 13% better than Rise (but about even if adjusted for inflation sans the 3D bump). In a movie going environment where big sequels are opening well below their predecessors, this isn’t a disastrous drop. But it’s a sign that interest in the franchise peaked three years ago. Moreover, even with the reviews and the buzz, War for the Planet of the Apes didn’t look and feel all that different from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.