Box office report: 'Hotel Transylvania' sets September record with $43 million; 'Looper' strong in second

hotel-transylvania

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

Right about now, some intern at Sony is probably carting a few crates of champagne into the boardroom. Or at the very least least a couple buckets of Halloween candy.

The studio had a terrific weekend, breaking the September box office slump with the top two hits in the country.

Hotel Transylvania led the way with a tremendous $43 million from 3,349 theaters — the highest September opening weekend of all time ahead of Sweet Home Alabama‘s $35.6 million bow a full decade ago.

The monster hit, which earned an “A-” CinemaScore grade and a sizzling $12,840 per theater average, will continue to play to family audiences in the weeks leading up to the great pumpkin holiday, and will easily break the $100 million mark — a milestone that has evaded main voice actor Adam Sandler’s last two films, That’s My Boy ($36.9 million) and Jack and Jill ($74.2 million).

For the still-young Sony Pictures Animation (the animation division entered the marketplace in 2006 with Open Season), Hotel Transylvania‘s strong debut is the studio’s best opening weekend yet. SPA’s former top dog was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, which started with $30.3 million on its way to $124.9 million total in 2009. Hotel Transylvania, which cost Sony $85 million, will almost certainly beat that total.

DreamWorks and Fox have already proved that there’s room in the animation game for studios other than Pixar — especially thanks to the lucrative international market — and it seems Sony is growing into a viable contender as well. Hotel Transylvania‘s debut trailed the openings of Brave ($66.3 million) and Madagascar 3 ($60.3 million) substantially, but it was right in line with Ice Age: Continental Drift‘s start ($46.6 million). Still, the animated title wasn’t the only reason for Sony to be happy this weekend.

looper-2

Image Credit: Alan Markfield

The time-bending sci-fi thriller Looper got off to a strong start as well with $21.2 million from 2,992 locations, immediately setting itself up as a winner for distributor TriStar, a subsidiary of Sony. The Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle rode a wave of positive reviews over the course of the weekend. After a $6.9 million Friday, the film ticked up an encouraging 28 percent to $8.8 million on Saturday — a sign of positive word-of-mouth, despite the film’s mediocre “B” CinemaScore grade.

For star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper establishes box-office viability after the terrible performance of his bike messenger film Premium Rush, which earned only $19.8 million following its August’s debut. The film was financed for a slim $35 million by Endgame Entertainment, who partnered with Chinese distributor DMG Entertainment.

Working with the Chinese distributor paid off in a big way in China, where Looper (which portrays a futuristic, dominant China) is expected to earn about $24 million, making this the first time China has ever been the number one territory for a film at the global box office. Times certainly are a changin’.

The next three spots on the chart are occupied by last weekend’s top three films. End of Watch fell 39 percent to $8.0 million and has now grossed $26.2 million. Trouble with the Curve dipped 38 percent to $7.5 million and has now earned $23.7 million. And House at the End of the Street declined 41 percent to $7.2 million and has now found $22.2 million.

1. Hotel Transylvania – $43.0 million
2. Looper – $21.2 million
3. End of Watch – $8.0 million
4. Trouble with the Curve – $7.5 million
5. House at the End of the Street – $7.2 million

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Image Credit: Peter Iovino

Just outside the Top 5, Universal’s buzzy $17 million a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect proved to be just that.

Playing in only 335 theaters, the Glee-ful singing competition flick grossed a tremendous $5.2 million, giving Pitch Perfect a robust $15,560 per theater average — the strongest of all movies that reported box-office numbers today. Perhaps unsurprisingly, audiences were 74 percent female. Universal will launch the film, which earned an “A” CinemaScore, into about 2,800 theaters next weekend. Look for it to hit a box-office high note.

Way back in 10th place was Fox’s new wide release Won’t Back Down, the teaching drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. The film, which cost a reported $19 million to make, bombed with only $2.7 million from 2,515 theaters, yielding a wretched $1,074 per theater average. Someone please bring those ladies an apple.

Two other notes. Summit’s Perks of Being a Wallflower had another great week in limited release. The Logan Lerman/Emma Watson feature grossed $1.1 million from 102 theaters, giving Perks a terrific $11,150 theater average. Summit will continue to expand the film in the next few weeks. Meanwhile Ice Age: Continental Drift set a box-office record overseas, where the film has now earned $693.9 million — the highest international total of all time for an animated film. Meanwhile, the film’s $159.6 million domestic cume is a franchise-low for the Ice Age films. Like I said, times are a changin’.

Check back next week for full box office coverage of Frankenweenie, Taken 2, and Pitch Perfect, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates.

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