LOS ANGELES (AP) - 'Planet of the Apes' emerged as the 800-pound gorilla at the weekend box office in North America, breaking several records in the process.
The simian saga, billed by director Tim Burton as a "re-imagination" of the 1968 sci-fi classic, opened at No. 1 with a three-day sum of $69.6 million since its Friday bow, according to studio estimates issued Sunday.
Reviews for the Twentieth Century Fox release were mixed, but moviegoers were attracted by a combination of the "Planet
" franchise, Burton's edgy reputation and the burgeoning star power of headliner Mark Wahlberg, said Bruce Snyder, the studio's president of distribution.
Last weekend's box office champ, "Jurassic Park III," slipped to No. 2 with $22.5 million, followed by the Julia Roberts romantic comedy "America's Sweethearts" with $15.7 million.
If figures hold when final data are released Monday, the three-day tally for "Planet of the Apes" will rank as the biggest non-holiday opener ever, Snyder said. The old mark was $68.1 million, set last May by "The Mummy Returns." The overall three-day record is held by "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" with $72.1 million.
Snyder said his film's $25 million Friday take was the third best for a single day, after the $28 million Wednesday opening by "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" in 1999 and the $26 million Sunday haul during the first weekend of "The Lost World" in 1997.
Additionally, "Planet" sets a new record for Burton, surpassing the $46 million opening for the 42-year-old director's "Batman Returns" in 1992. The opening is also good news for Fox, which has not had a big hit since "Cast Away" last December. Fox is a unit of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Entertainment Group Inc.
Wahlberg plays a U.S. Air Force astronaut who crash lands on a bizarro, futuristic world where sophisticated monkeys have the upper hand over base humans. Helena Bonham-Carter co-stars as an enlightened ape, and Tim Roth as their hairy nemesis.
"Jurassic Park III" (Universal) passed the century mark last Thursday, its ninth day of release. Its 12-day total now stands at $124.8 million. The film, which suffered a 56 percent drop in viewership thanks in part to the arrival of "Apes," should end up in the $175 million-$200 million area, said Nikki Rocco, Universal's distribution president.
"Dr. Dolittle 2," at No. 7, was expected to pass the $100 million mark Sunday, its 38th day of release. Fox's Eddie Murphy comedy pulled in an estimated $4.2 million over the weekend, taking its total to $100.8 million.
Overall ticket sales jumped for the second consecutive weekend. The top 12 movies grossed $143.4 million, up six percent from last weekend, and up 18 percent from the year-ago period when Murphy's "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" opened at No. 1 with $42.5 million.
"Planet of the Apes" was this weekend's sole new wide release. New releases next weekend include the steamy Antonio Banderas/Angelina Jolie romance "Original Sin," the family comedy "The Princess Diaries" and the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker cop comedy "Rush Hour 2."
"America's Sweethearts" (Columbia), which dropped 48 percent in its second weekend, has pulled in $59.4 million after 10 days, and has an "excellent chance" of reaching $100 million, said Jeff Blake, the studio's president of marketing and distribution. With the marketplace dominated by action films, Blake said "Sweethearts" would stand out as a romantic comedy alternative. Columbia Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp. Rounding out the top five were the Reese Witherspoon comedy "Legally Blonde" (MGM) with $9.0 million, and the Robert De Niro heist thriller "The Score" (Paramount) with $7.1 million, both down one spot in their third weekends. Their respective 17-day totals are $59.8 million and $49.2 million.
1 "Planet of the Apes," $69.6 million
2 "Jurassic Park III," $22.5 million
3 "America's Sweethearts," $15.7 million
4 "Legally Blonde," $9.0 million
5 "The Score," $7.1 million
6 "Cats & Dogs," $4.5 million
7 "Dr. Dolittle 2," $4.2 million
8 "The Fast and the Furious," $3.8 million
9 "Scary Movie 2," $2.6 million
10 "Shrek," $1.7 million