'Apes' rise to No. 1 weekend with $54 million

By the Associated Press | August 7, 2011 | 12:45 PM EDT

In this image released by Twentieth Century Fox, Caesar the chimp, a CG animal portrayed by Andy Serkis, and James Franco are shown in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes ." The prequel "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," opening in U.S. theaters Friday, features chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans crafted through performance-capture. It is the same technology used for the giant gorilla in Peter Jackson's 2005 "King Kong," with the same actor who did Kong, Andy Serkis, playing the lead chimp in the prequel.(AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Apes have climbed to the top rung of the weekend box office.

According to studio estimates Sunday, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" took in $54 million to open as the No. 1 movie.

That was more than analysts expected for the "Apes" prequel, though well below the $68.5 million opening of Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" remake 10 years ago.

The family tale "The Smurfs" remained at No. 2 for the second-straight weekend with $21 million, lifting its domestic total to $76.2 million.

The sci-fi Western "Cowboys & Aliens," which debuted at No. 1 narrowly ahead of "The Smurfs" a week earlier, fell to third with $15.8 million, raising its total to $67.4 million.

The comedy "The Change-Up" opened a weak No. 4 with $13.5 million.