While Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is expected to give the sluggish summer B.O. a shot in the arm next weekend with a $100M-plus opening, there’s been some excitement percolating around town about 20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment’s threequel War for the Planet of the Apes which opens on July 14. 

On tracking, Apes is expected to log a three-day in the high $50M range, potentially cracking $60M. But rival distribution chiefs are quite bullish that the film could blow those expectations away with a domestic opening between $70M-$80M. That fervor is spurred by War‘s early reviews which hit Rotten Tomatoes at 94% fresh.

Should War open to $72.6M-plus, which was the domestic debut for its the 2014 installment Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it would rep the series’ best opening ever. Rise of the Planet of the Apes opened to $54.8M six years ago, and it’s quite conceivable that War can beat that figure.

20th Century Fox

Assessed one rival distribution czar over the weekend about War, “It is destined for a broader audience and there looks to be something very compelling here.” War director Matt Reeves, who also helmed Dawn, mentioned at a 20th Century Fox product reel in December that he was influenced by westerns and Apocalypse Now in making his latest Apes. Fox has raised interest for War over the past year with clips shown at New York Comic-Con and CinemaCon.

Statistically speaking, a threequel logging the best opening out of a series’ first three titles isn’t out of the ordinary, and if you look around there have been a number of titles which have accomplished just that, i.e. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($93.7M), Iron Man 3 ($174.1M), Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M)and The Bourne Ultimatum ($69.3M), an older skewing guy title which is more of a comp for Apes (Dawn drew 58% men, 55% over  25). 

Should War‘s Rotten Tomatoes rating maintain its high level, it will outstrip that of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (81% certified) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (90% certified fresh).

Paramount Pictures

But herein lies the sobering reality: It’s been a bad time for non-superhero sequels at the B.O. Despite Fox’s Alien: Covenant notching a Rotten Tomatoes of 71% fresh, which wasn’t that far from its predecessor Prometheus, it didn’t send a stampede into auditoriums and the Ridley Scott-directed title missed its $40M-plus opening with a $36M three-day. While great Rotten Tomatoes scores are necessary for any tentpole to succeed at the B.O, here was a glaring example in Alien: Covenant where great reviews didn’t impact tickets sales for the better.

“The marketplace we are in does not support a $70M opening,” countered one tracker to the looming War fever. Further supporting that insight is last July’s tentpoles. Despite nabbing great reviews, Sony’s Ghostbusters at 73% fresh didn’t wow in its initial FSS with $46M and Paramount’s threequel Star Trek Beyond opened to $59.2M, the lowest for the millennial reboot despite having similar reviews to Into Darkness (84% certified fresh). Star Trek Beyond ended its domestic run at $159M — far from enough for a film that cost a reported $185M before P&A and churned a $50.5M loss after all ancillaries counted per financial sources.

The difference? War has better reviews than all the titles mentioned above. In addition, many are already commenting on the power of War‘s legs. The one title according to many that will be hurt the most by War, no matter if the threequel opens in the high $50Ms, $60Ms or $70Ms, is EuropaCorp/STX’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets which follows Apes on July 21 and is vying for the same older male audience. That pic hit tracking last week with a forecast of $20M to Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk‘s $35M.

Stay tuned.