Here's your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
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 - $7.1 million
6. Pitch Perfect - $5.2 million
7. Finding Nemo 3D - $4.0 million
8. Resident Evil: Retribution - $3.0 million
9. The Master - $2.74 million
10. Won't Back Down - $2.70 million
The Big Stories
Looks like Adam Sandler may have found a home for his wacky, unfunny voices. After Jack & Jill and That's My Boy couldn't live up to an impressive box office record that saw his last 12 live-action comedies (without dramatic implications) break $100 million, Sandler's Hotel Transylvania killed this weekend. How well did it do? In three days it has already bested the total gross of That's My Boy. It boasted the best #1 total since the weekend of July 20 when The Dark Knight Rises opened. It's the sixth film in Sandler's career to open north of $40 million and will be the second or third highest of his career depending on final estimates. It is the highest opening weekend of September ever, soaring past Sweet Home Alabama, which grossed $35.6 million in 2002. Maybe saddest of all, it is only $10 million away from besting the far superior Paranorman and just another $30 away from besting Sony's own Monster House.
This is a big bounce back for Sony's Animation division who, in the past nine months had received disappointing returns on both Arthur Christmas ($46.4 million) and The Pirates! Band of Misfits ($31 million). Not only is Hotel Transylvania going to skyrocket past both of those combined, it is going to be their biggest hit since Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which opened to $30.3 million in September 2009 and finished with nearly $125 million. Their second best film to date, Open Season, opened six years ago on the same weekend and went on to gross $85 million. No film has opened to more than $40 million this year and grossed less than $125. Frankenweenie may steal some of that audience away next weekend, but maybe not enough to best Hotel Transylvania in week two.
Rian Johnson has a hit!
Sony not only had the top film at the box office this weekend, but their Tri-Star division (remember the horsey?) pulled in at #2. With his first wide release, writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) grabbed an impressive $21.2 million. It may be just one of 23 films that have opened to more than $20 million in September, but in the same territory of openings since The Dark Knight Rises here is where it ranks
Hotel Transylvania ($42.0), The Bourne Legacy ($38.1), The Expendables 2 ($28.5), The Campaign ($26.5), Total Recall ($25.5), Looper ($21.2), Resident Evil: Retribution ($21.0), The Possession ($17.7), Finding Nemo 3D ($16.6), Hope Springs ($14.65), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days ($14.62), Paranorman ($14.0), End of Watch ($13.1), The Watch ($12.7), House at the End of the Street ($12.2)
While you may scoff that it couldn't outdo Len Wiseman's horrendous Total Recall remake and barely bested the fifth Resident Evil, this is a film that will be celebrated long after the numbers are forgotten. (Speaking of which, Lionsgate's Dredd has fallen out of the top 10 after just six days and won't gross what any of these films opened to.) While we are thinking of numbers, consider that Looper's budget ($30 million) is less than half of Resident Evil's and not even a quarter of Recall's. All three films fly under the Sony banner with Total Recall grossing over $175 million worldwide (not even close to breaking even) and Resident Evil still chucking along with $142 million to date (grabbing a small profit). Looper has a good shot at outgrossing both domestically and has already got off to a tremendous start overseas opening in China to even more than its U.S. numbers. Maybe once it jumps ship in Hong Kong and makes its way over to Tibet, Looper can take on the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas. Anyway you slice it, the film is likely going to be turning its own profit by its second weekend. So it's got that going for it, which is nice.
A Nearly Pitch-perfect Opening
In what may be the all-around surprise of the week, Universal's Pitch Perfect (spawned by supposed terrific word of mouth) was launched on 335 screens this week. This was ahead of its planned opening date of next weekend where it will be facing off with Frankenweenie and Taken 2. While the film may be aimed at female audiences where the others are not, solid comedies can have terrific crossover appeal and Jason Moore's debut film is every bit that. If word of mouth is truly any indication, Pitch Perfect could surprise a lot of people next week. But not if they looked at the numbers this week.
While everyone went gaga over The Master's impressive opening a few weeks ago, the Weinsteins may have jumped the gun on getting the film out there. Paul Thomas Anderson's latest wonder was always destined for a limited audience and maybe even moreso once even fans could not put the experience into words, but in the manner of a single week shifted the story from Oscar talk and a record opening to watching how it looks on a Top 10 list. Numbers can be cruel that way sometimes. It is up to the film lovers and award watchers to keep it in the conversation now. On the bright side as many people went to see it on its third weekend in 856 locations as those who saw Fox's far less challenging piece of wannabe Oscar bait, Won't Back Down, opened on over 2,500.
Screen count is what makes Pitch Perfect's number all the more impressive this weekend. Besting even Hotel Transylvania's per-screen average this week ($15,522 vs. $12,840), the Anna Kendrick-starrer looks even better amongst films that either platformed or opened their widest on less than 500 screens. Here is the list since 2000:
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol ($12.78), Closer ($7.70), Pitch Perfect ($5.2 million), The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D ($3.27), Pride and Prejudice ($2.86), Under the Same Moon ($2.76), Beauty and the Beast (IMAX) ($2.58), Woman Thou Art Loosed ($2.32), Almost Famous ($2.314), After Dark's Horror Fest: 8 Films to Die For ($2.310), Fantasia 2000 ($2.29), Casa de Mi Padre ($2.28), A Mighty Wind ($2.11), Chicago ($2.07), Friends with Kids ($2.01)
Tom Cruise. Julia Roberts. Anna Kendrick. A great weekend for Anna and her 50/50 costar Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Hopefully they can both keep it up for weeks to come. Same goes for Summit who should take a cue and expand The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It's book following has to be ever stronger than Mickey Rapkin's non-fiction tale of a cappella groups that Pitch Perfect stems from. In two weeks of limited release (four screens last week and 102 this weekend), its total gross stands at $1.46 million. If Moonrise Kingdom can take home over $45 million on less than 1,000 screens, the far superior Wallflower which favors honest emotion over forced quirkiness and style deserves a chance to do even better.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]