For those hooked on a theory last weekend that star power no longer works in opening films, their concerns are further underscored this weekend as a bunch of no-name apes are driving 20th Century Studios/Disney’s Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes to what might be the biggest B.O. opening this May of $52M-$55M. This is all fueled by PLFs and Imax screens which are delivering 44% of the weekend’s till. Screen Engine/Comscore PostTrak exits showed that 43% of the moviegoers bought tickets because they love the franchise, natch.

We’ll see if a Cannes Premiere this week can lift Furiosa past its current $40M-$50M projection, but word of mouth is excellent out of early screenings for the George Miller directed Mad Max: Fury Road prequel. Unlike Disney with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny last Cannes, a movie that wasn’t ready for primetime, Warners is truly in pole position here to blast Furiosa off.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes posted a very good Friday of $22.2M thanks to late night business, which isn’t that far from the first Friday results of Tim Burton’s 2001 version ($24.6M), and ahead of Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($19.5M) and pennies lighter than War for the Planet of the Apes ($22.1M). However, the Wes Ball directed version of the 56-year old franchise gets a B Cinemascore and 3 1/2 stars/77% on Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak, so hopefully these apes don’t lose their muscle. On a whole 85% of the CinemaScore audience gave Kingdom an A or a B. That’s one of the lowest grades for an Apes movie in the millennium down there with Burton’s which got a B-. Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score has eased to 79%. Still, good on Disney for getting this movie opened, their first try with the franchise post 20th Century Fox. Despite the audience exits, there’s confidence at Disney for the sequel to arrive at the higher end of its projections due to its better-than-expected Friday.

Social media monitor RelishMix detected mixed to positive word of mouth before Kingdom‘s opening. That said on the bright side: “Fans anticipating the sequel seem excited primarily because of one thing — sheer love for the past three films. ‘This looks freaking incredible. I gotta rewatch all the previous ones before this comes out. These movies are so cool.’ The quality of the past films is driving immense interest in this one” ‘This is one of the best franchises ever made. Every movie was awesome. A near-perfect trilogy. I was not expecting a fourth installment, but man, this looks great!’ Whatever direction the Apes franchise goes next, it looks like fans will follow.”

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes saw 64% men turnout with 18-34 year olds repping 57% of the audience with the 25-34 year old segment being the biggest demo at close to a third. Solid diversity demos in 35% Caucasian, 27% Latino and Hispanic, 22% Black, and 9% Asian. Those moviegoers going bananas for this sequel were in the South, South Central and West. AMC Burbank is currently the highest grossing theater in the nation with $67K.

The social media universe for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes stands at 331.6M followers across TikTok, Facebook, X, YouTube and Instagram.  Compared to other action sci-fi comps, Kingdom‘s smu runs 24% above genre norms, but below recent pics such as Dune: Part Two (575.7M) and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (508.8M) and even Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (393M).

Universal’s second weekend of Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt’s Fall Guy is eyeing $14.4M, -48%, a very good hold. The second weekend is better than Lost City‘s -51%, but a little lighter as that Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum film posted $14.7M. The pic’s slither out of the gate had more to do with the marketplace, and the insider type of movie that it was and less about stars — it was Gosling’s third highest opening of his career. Some were even put off by the mixed genres. “It’s a problem when you’re pushing a romantic comedy and a majority of men show up,” sniped one rival studio source.

Elsewhere, there’s Briarcliff Entertainment’s comedy satire, Not Another Church Movie, booked at 1,108 theaters which had no P&A spend and is resulting in $120K Friday and a $300K 3-day. Critics didn’t think it was funny at 17% on RT, nor did moviegoers at 44%. Johnny Mack wrote and directed the movie which stars Mickey Rouke as the Devil, Jamie Foxx as God and Kevin Daniels as Taylor Pharry.

Overall weekend stands at $93.8M, which is 27% ahead of last weekend, but 7% off from the same frame in May a year ago when the second weekend of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 delivered $62M.