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‘Planet of the Apes’ scales to new heights at movie theaters

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NEW YORK – 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.

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.

After two weeks on top, the Michael Bay action sequel “Transformers: Age of Extinction” slid to second with $16.5 million. Its three-week domestic total is now $209 million for Paramount. The Melissa McCarthy comedy “Tammy” came in third with $12.9 million. Though bad reviews have dampened the response to McCarthy’s latest, the relatively low-budget release has made $57.4 million for Warner Bros. in two weeks.

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