Is Kong still king? The definitive list of money-making monkeys in movies

Solidly middle of the road.
Solidly middle of the road.
Image: 20th Century Fox
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That’s a lot of monkeys.

While Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong is at the top of our list*, many of the rest come from the recent revival of the Planet of the Apes film franchise that started in the late Sixties. The latest, War for the Planet of the Apes, might be one of the best-reviewed endings to a film trilogy ever, but as far as monkey movies go, it’s box-office performance didn’t blow the other titles out of the jungle.

After opening in US theaters this past weekend, it brought $56.5 million in the US and Canada, the film’s domestic market, according to ComScore. That’s the fourth-strongest opening for a live-action movie about primates for which data was available, a Quartz analysis of Box Office Mojo and The Numbers data found. The last installment made the largest debut of any ape-led movie.

Adjusted for 2017 ticket-price inflation, War for the Planet of the Apes had the sixth biggest opening of the monkey movies Quartz analyzed, with the 2001 Planet of the Apes reboot taking the lead.

Box Office Mojo says the latest Planet of the Apes film could bring in around $150 million when its run is done, based on the performance of other comparable movies like Star Trek Beyond, and the first in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. That domestic run would recover the film’s $150 million budget, but put it behind its predecessors and the most recent King Kong films in terms of box-office gross. (That’s on an unadjusted basis because adjusted data was not available for all the primate movies Quartz found. Domestic box-office figures were also not available for older King Kong movies like the 1933 Son of Kong and King Kong vs. Godzilla, which premiered in New York City in 1963.)

The mediocre performance comes during a sluggish summer box office that has been down around 8% in the US, as audiences tire of sequels and reboots. Internationally, War brought in an estimated $46 million and will open in more major markets, like South Korea and Japan, in the coming weeks.

*A note on methodology: Quartz pulled a 2014 list of live-action movies that starred primates from the Internet Movie Database and added in newer releases like Disney’s Monkey Kingdom documentary, Kong: Skull Island, and the recent Planet of the Apes installments, as well as older movies that were overlooked, such as Dunston Checks In, which were sourced from a more comprehensive list of monkey film appearances from the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Films that did not actually star the primates, such as Tarzan, about a man raised by apes, George of the Jungle, about a man whose best friend is an ape, and The Jungle Book, which features a myriad of animals, were omitted from this analysis.