Hollywood counting on 'Apes' to boost box office

Hollywood needs the sequel to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to blow up the box office — in a good way, not the one that brought Charlton Heston to his sand-crusted knees at the end of the 1968 sci-fi hit. 

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is not just your average Friday or Saturday night escape into the air-conditioned comfort of your local multiplex. Some reasons why it matters more than most:

1. The summer box office is down 19 percent, compared with the same period a year ago. It needs a movie with the footprint of “Godzilla” and the muscle of Hercules or Dwayne Johnson, who plays him come July 25. Fast. 

2. The 2011 reboot was one of the most successful films of that year, not just the summer. The list was crowned by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2,” but “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” landed at No. 9 with nearly $177 million in North America, just behind “Thor” and squeaking ahead of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” It also was a worldwide blockbuster, bringing in nearly $482 million. 

3. Never underestimate the nostalgic ties to the 1960s inaugural movie, which ended with the camera pulling back to reveal the Statue of Liberty. In writing and producing the 2011 installment, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver told the Post-Gazette, “We tried really hard to walk the line between creating a story that would completely stand on its own, bring in new fans, and also pay great honor to what came before.”  

4. The ending of “Rise” was made for a sequel with the apes breaking free from their human captors as a deadly virus spread globally. 

5. It wasn‘‍t exactly a talkie by that climactic close, but Caesar spoke and the new movie explores the advancement of the animals’‍ language skills.

6. No animals were harmed or even featured in the making of the movie, thanks to visual effects wizardry supervised by Aliquippa native Joe Letteri of Weta Digital based in New Zealand. He is no stranger to such magic, given his .500 batting average with the Academy Awards. He has earned eight nominations and four Oscars, along with a special Scientific and Technical Award for groundbreaking techniques used to create realistic-looking skin on digitally created characters. 

7. Andy Serkis returns, solidifying his status as the “undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called ‘‍performance capture,’‍ ” as actor James Franco once wrote, lobbying for his co-star to be recognized by Academy Award voters. He was not, although critics and moviegoers celebrate his contributions to such signature roles as Caesar and, in “The Lord of the Rings,” Gollum.

8. It’s rated PG-13, although is not appropriate for young children, and is available in both 2-D and pricier 3-D.

9. In Pittsburgh, some smaller movies will open in limited fashion, but it’‍s the only new and big game in town.   

10. Hey, isn‘‍t that the kid from “The Road”? Yes, a much taller Kodi Smit-McPhee, who came to Pittsburgh in 2008 to appear opposite Viggo Mortensen in the postapocalyptic drama, here plays the teenage son of Jason Clarke, a former architect whose wife died from the virus that claimed most of humanity. 



Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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