How The Planet of the Apes Franchise Has Been a Blockbuster Franchise
How The Planet of the Apes Franchise Has Been a Blockbuster Franchise (Photo Credit – IMDb)

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes recently had a trailer reveal. But why are the Apes movies continuing? The last movie, way back in 2017, seemed to end at just the right spot. What some might not know is that the Apes franchise has been one of the longest-running and most successful movie franchises ever.

How much have these films made? Well, the Planet of the Apes films have made over $2 billion worldwide, which might be surprising for those who haven’t paid attention to this long history of movies. All of it started in 1968 with Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle and starring Charlton Heston. The film centered around a team of astronauts landing on a planet of the distant future ruled entirely by highly-intelligent apes.

The budget was $5.8 million, which was low considering the changing of the society of apes to be more primitive than that of the book. Thankfully, the film’s relatively low cost turned a handsome profit of $33 million at the box office. What’s even more satisfying is that this weird movie about apes managed to snag some awards nominations. And that wasn’t the end for this saga, as sequels quickly followed.

The 70s had a wave of Apes movies plunge into movie theaters. There was the direct sequel “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” that continued the strange adventures, with Heston returning. There was the origins of the ape rebellion in the cheaper yet compelling picture “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.” The budgets got lower as the sequels continued, and the silly costumes looked even cheaper. The good news was that the sequels still managed to turn a profit with each entry, which is weird because you’d expect the opposite of a franchise going on for so long. Even the cheapest movie, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” still made $8.8 million worldwide on its meager budget of a little over $1 million.

Tim Burton, a director used to strange movies, took a swing at a “Planet of the Apes” reboot in 2001. The film featured a cast that included Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Clarke Duncan, some of whom were buried in more articulate ape makeup. While the blockbuster film was critically panned for offering little change from the original story and featuring ho-hum special effects of the era, the expensive film – which cost $100 million to make, brought in well over $300 million worldwide. This proved that a “Planet of the Apes” blockbuster could still turn a profit in the 21st century, and this was when the movies really started to get good.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and “War for the Planet of the Apes,” all told the continuing story of how humanity fell to the reign of apes. The apes were far more intimidating for being rendered by lifelike computer graphics and detailed motion-captured acting by Andy Serkis.

All of these films had impressive cash flowing in from them, as Rise would make $481 million on a budget of $93 million, Dawn would make $710 million on a budget of $170 million, and War would make $490 million on a budget of $150 million. Unlike the previous Apes movies, this trilogy grew in both critical praise and budget with each entry, meaning audiences would come and praise a high-quality “Planet of the Apes” movie despite the original film often being joked about for looking so surreal.

Will Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes continue this trend of the highly profitable franchise? We’ll have to wait and see when the film debuts in theaters on May 24, 2024. 

Note: Box office numbers are based on estimates and various sources. Numbers have not been independently verified by Koimoi.

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