Studio estimates Sunday pegged "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" at $27.5 million, good enough for its second-straight No. 1 finish. The 20th Century Fox release raised its 10-day domestic total to $104.9 million.
The "Planet of the Apes" prequel came in just ahead of "The Help," a drama about Mississippi maids during the civil-rights movement that debuted at No. 2 with $25.5 million. "The Help," a DreamWorks release distributed by Disney, has taken in $35.4 million domestically since opening Wednesday.
The Warner Bros. horror sequel "Final Destination 5," the latest in the franchise where death stalks victims who had been fated to die earlier, opened at No. 3 with $18.4 million.
The weekend's other two new wide releases had soft openings. Sony's action comedy "30 Minutes or Less," starring Jesse Eisenberg as a pizza deliveryman forced to help rob a bank, was No. 5 with $13 million, just behind Sony's surprise animated smash "The Smurfs," which slipped to fourth-place with $13.5 million and lifted its three-week total to $101.5 million.
The singers from TV's "Glee" failed to find a big-screen audience as 20th Century Fox's "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie" opened outside the top-10, finishing at No. 11 with just $5.7 million. The concert film was shot during the cast's recent North American tour.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "The Help" have exceeded their studios' early box-office expectations. Both received strong reviews, "Apes" for surprising drama amid dazzling visual effects to create the simians, "The Help" for great performances from Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and their co-stars in the adaptation of the best-seller about black maids who go public with stories about working for often racist white employers.
"You've really got to see it to believe it because of the effects," Fox distribution executive Chris Aronson said of "Apes." "The combination of the effects and an emotional story makes for a very satisfying trip to the movies."
The "Apes" prequel added $40.5 million overseas, raising its international total to $75 million and worldwide haul to nearly $180 million.
Female crowds made up 74 percent of the audience for "The Help," and 60 percent of viewers were older than 35. That's a sign "The Help" could have a long shelf life at theaters, since women and older audiences tend to get drawn to films through word-of-mouth rather than rushing out over opening weekend the way young crowds do.
"The Help" already has far outpaced the $20 million Disney executives hoped for over the first five days, and the film is playing strongly in both urban and middle America markets, said Dave Hollis, the studio's head of distribution.
"The book and the way it kind of rose to the best-seller list was very much this word-of-mouth, viral thing where people say, `you've got to read this thing I just read,' and we're hoping the movie can do the same kind of thing," Hollis said.
"The Smurfs" also has outstripped expectations. The family hit added $60 million overseas to raise its worldwide total to $242 million, and Sony announced a sequel over the past week.
"We were ready to make the second one before we even released the first," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "We felt confident it was going to work, but I don't think anybody had any idea it was going to work to this level."
Overall domestic business increased for the fifth-straight weekend. Revenues totaled $152 million, up 6 percent from the same weekend last year, when "The Expendables" led with $34.8 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
"We're ending the summer on a high note," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "The usually unsung month of August can be the time when a lot of unexpected things happen that benefit the box office."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," $27.5 million ($40.5
2. "The Help," $25.5 million.
3. "Final Destination 5," $18.4 million.
4. "The Smurfs," $13.5 million ($60 million international).
5. "30 Minutes or Less," $13 million.
6. "Cowboys & Aliens," $7.6 million ($7 million international).
7. "Captain America: The First Avenger," $7.1 million ($12.2 million international).
8. "Crazy, Stupid, Love," $6.93 million.
9. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," $6.9 million ($30 million international).
10. "The Change-Up," $6.2 million.