Sony Animation’s new comedy Hotel Transylvania starring the voice of Adam Sandler, and Sony’s time-travel thriller Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, helped bring the North American box office back to life this weekend. Both films under the Sony Pictures umbrella performed well beyond their expectations. Universal’s college comedy Pitch Perfect had a great opening in limited release, while Fox’s school drama Won’t Back Down was dead on arrival. With a new selection of films that people actually are interested in seeing, the box office leaped upward a big 45% from last weekend and a healthy 26% from a year ago at this time.
Following the one-two misstep of Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy! , Adam Sandler returned to his financially winning ways at the multiplex with the 3D comedy Hotel Transylvania. As is the case with most Sandler films, critics tore Hotel a new one by bestowing it a low 42% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Families could care less what critics had to say however as they poured a record-setting (for a September debut) $43 million from 3,349 theaters. With Halloween a month away and the only family offering in the past month being a reissue of Finding Nemo, the timing could not have been better for Hotel to open for business. The big turnout and “A” CinemaScore rating from ticket buyers should guarantee Sandler his 13th $100 million hit.
Opening in second place was the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis sci-fi time travel flick Looper with a solid $21.2 million from 2,992 theaters. The $30 million production was directed by Rian Johnson (Brick) and co-stars Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels. Critics loved the film, handing it an all-too rare 93% approval rating on RT, while CinemaScore audiences rated it a “B.” Looper had a terrific opening in China this weekend as well. It earned an estimated $25 million alone from that country.
Three films that debuted to modest numbers last weekend showed decent legs in their sophomore rounds. Open Road Films’ police thriller End of Watch was third with an estimated $8 million from 2,780 theaters. Off a modest 39% from its number one opening last weekend, the movie has earned a respectable $26.1 million after ten days and could finish its watch around the $45 million mark.
In fourth was Clint Eastwood’s baseball flick Trouble With the Curve. Off 38%, Curve earned an estimated $7.5 million from 3,212 theaters to bring its total to the $23 million mark and could make its way to the $35 million range.
Rounding out the top five was Relativity’s Jennifer Lawrence starrer House at the End of the Street. The thriller slid 41% to $7.1 million and $22.2 million to date. Like Curve and Watch, House is also looking at a final haul between $35 and $40 million.
The weekend’s other two debuts found themselves bookending the second half of the top ten. Ahead of its wide release next Friday, Universal’s comedy Pitch Perfect opened on 335 screens and earned a big $5.2 million for a terrific per-screen average of $15,522. The low-budget comedy connected with not only ticket buyers in college towns who showed up en masse, but also with critics (73% RT approval rating). Fox’s school drama Won’t Back Down wasn’t as lucky. The Maggie Gyllenhaal film was torn apart by critics (33% RT score) and ignored by audiences. Arriving on 2,515 screens, Down earned a poor $2.7 million for an awful per-screen average of $1,074. Watch for this film to flunk out of the top ten by next weekend.
The remainder of the top ten was as follows:
7. Finding Nemo (Disney) $4 million (-58%) $36.4 million
8. Resident Evil: Retribution (Screen Gems) $3 million (-55%) $38.7 million
9. The Master (Weinstein Company) $2.7 million (-37%) $9.6 million
Next weekend, Liam Neeson and his family take on Eastern Europe in the sequel Taken 2 and Disney will debut the 3D-animated Tim Burton film Frankenweenie. Both will set their sights on knocking Adam Sandler and Hotel Transylvania off their first position perch.
– Shawn Fitzgerald