‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ surpassing box-office expectations

#1 for now.

At the start of this weekend, most analysts expected “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to get off to a strong start and even to win the box office — however, at the time a $40 million opening did not seem to much in the ream of possibility.

The good news for the film now is that 20th Century Fox us most likely pleasantly surprised at the moment. Early estimates of Friday have the James Franco prequel grossing $14 million — an impressive total considering that the franchise is not as fresh as many others in the industry. Strong reviews likely played a role in boosting attendance, as did some top-notch special effects from Peter Jackson’s team at WETA. (Andy Serkis — best known for playing Gollum — starred in the film as the ape Caesar.)

If “Apes” keeps up this pace, it will likely gross somewhere close to $40 million for the weekend. As for this weekend’s other wide release, “The Change-Up” is not faring as well. With a gross of $4-6 million for Friday, the Ryan Reynolds comedy is likely going to finish at somewhere between $14 and $16 million for the weekend.

Are you planning to check out any movies over the next two days?

Update: In another stunning move, “Apes” managed to end up thwarting even Friday expectations, upping its total to $18 million. It is now expected to open somewhere in the mid-$40 million range.

Poster: 20th Century Fox

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