It looks like the “Planet of the Apes” franchise is firmly back among the Hollywood elite. This weekend, the latest installment in the series, titled “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” took the top spot at the domestic box office by bringing in an impressive $73 million domestically.

That total is up 33-percent from the previous installment, 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” That movie took in $54.8 million in its opening weekend. With $73 million to its credit, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” knocked “Transformers: Age of Extinction” from the top spot after two weekends at the head of the pack.

Still, though, “Extinction” wound up making $16.5 million during the weekend, bringing its 17-day total up to $209 million in the United States, according to Box Office Mojo. Michael Bay’s fourth installment in the explosion-filled franchise is well on its way to making $1 billion worldwide.

However, the big story is “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and how this franchise went from being an afterthought in Hollywood to being a much-needed breath of fresh air among its blockbuster contemporaries.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is also looking like a hit overseas after taking in $30 million this weekend. That total will continue to climb as the film gets released in all major markets around the globe. If “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” could make more than $300 million overseas, it’s expected that “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” will do even better.

With an impressive 91-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 79 score on Meta Critic and an “A-” on the all-important Cinema Score, “Dawn” has become one of the summer’s biggest hits among both fans and critics. Critics have praised the movie’s complex themes, groundbreaking special effects, moody atmosphere and the performance of Andy Serkis as the CGI ape leader, Caesar. The movie is much darker and more violent than “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” but critics are suggesting it is also more well-rounded and thought-provoking as well.

Most of the praise also has to be given to director Matt Reeves, who took over the franchise from Rupert Wyatt. Reeves is already scheduled to come back to the franchise for a third movie, set to be released in 2016.

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