— NEW YORK (AP) — The monkey business is a good business to be in at the box office.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" roared to $73 million on its opening weekend, one of the summer's best debuts, according to studio estimates Sunday. The 20th Century Fox sequel easily surpassed the $54.8 million opening to 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the reboot of the fabled chimp franchise.
In a summer heavy on hype but thin on quality, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" has proven to be one of the few hits that combined both spectacle and substance. Directed by Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield"), the 3-D "Dawn" has drawn enthusiasm from critics and moviegoers alike, particularly for the motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis as the film's lead ape, Caesar. In the film, Caesar's tribe suspiciously encounters a colony of surviving humans on a planet overrun by intelligent apes.
"When you get the kind of reviews we got and the audience actually agrees, it's the kind of rare thing where critics and audiences come together and say this is a great movie," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution at Fox.
A sequel to be directed by Reeves is already in the works to further extend the franchise that first began with 1968's "Planet of the Apes," based on Pierre Boulle's French novel. Four movies followed in the 1970s, as well as a failed 2001 reboot by Tim Burton.
But "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" will easily dwarf previous installments. It added $31.1 million overseas from 26 markets, for a global opening gross of $104.1 million.
"If every summer movie had this kind of release, that would be amazing," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, praising the film's intelligence, entertainment value and marking. "It combines all the elements of what a smart summer film should be."