BOX OFFICE: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ Breaks September Records, ‘Looper’ Takes Silver

You hear that? It’s the sound of hundreds of movie bloggers angrily deleting the words “Worst. September. Ever” from their Box Office Report ledes. Few would argue that the numbers for the past three weeks have been anything but abysmal, which likely resulted in very few people expecting even a modestly strong opener this last week of the month, let alone a record-breaking debut.  But thanks to a loud, manic animated film starring Adam Sandler, that’s precisely what happened.

Transylvania‘s performance – in addition to another strong debut from Rian Johnson’s Looper – really helped bump the overall numbers this weekend. Box office revenue is up 20% from the same time last year, and is up a whopping 44% from last weekend. We’ll see if next week’s Taken 2 and Frankenweenie manage to keep butts in the seat.

Box Office Estimates

September 28-30, 2012

1) Hotel Transylvania (Opening)

WEEKEND: $43.0 million | TOTAL: $43.0 million
If you want to know why box office is so much better this weekend, here’s why.  Hotel Transylvania managed to break Sweet Home Alabama‘s decade-long record as the strongest September opening ever. What’s more, Hotel Transylvania is this year’s fourth-highest debut for an animated film. That may not sound all that impressive at first, but considering how the three films that opened to better numbers were either franchise titles (Madagascar and Ice Age) or were attached to the Pixar brand (Brave), such a performance must be encouraging. Considering how badly That’s My Boy flopped this summer, I’m sure Adam Sandler’s pretty happy too.

2) Looper (Opening)

WEEKEND: $21.2 million | TOTAL: $21.2 million
Honestly, I expected (hoped?) these numbers would be a touch higher, considering how crowded my own theater was this weekend. But then again, if box office adhered to my personal desires, Certified Copy would have outgrossed Avatar. Still, for an R-rated, $30 million movie with an as-yet-unproven lead, made by a director who’s never grossed more than $4 million, these opening numbers aren’t exactly spilled milk worth crying over. Hilary will be sharing her thoughts in Film Misery’s official review, but I’ll spoil my opinion by saying I dearly hope Looper strikes a chord with audiences. It’s potentially the year’s smartest, most transgressive genre film.

3) End of Watch (2nd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $8.0 million | TOTAL: $26.2 million

Sometime this week, End of Watch‘s earnings will likely quadruple its $7 million budget. While that doesn’t exactly thrill me, I must admit it nonetheless pleases me to see small movies like this doing so well, especially in the light of John Carter, Battleship, Total Recall, and many other $100+ million duds that tanked in theaters this year. Who knows? Maybe somebody will finally learn how to make a profit on smaller projects!

4) Trouble with the Curve (2nd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $7.5 million | TOTAL: $23.7 million
My guess is Trouble With the Curve is unlikely to gross much higher than $35 million in its entire run. That would make it the 13th highest-grossing baseball movie in box office history (currently, it sits at #17). Those probably aren’t numbers this post-Moneyball flick was aiming for, but I suppose it really could have been worse.

5) House at the End of the Street (2nd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $7.2 million | TOTAL: $22.2 million

With a $7 million gross this weekend, this Jennifer Lawrence/Elisabeth Shue horror flick has earned back its budget twice over. It will likely spend one more week in the top ten and continue to taper off, making a tidy sum of money for its studio in the process.

6) Pitch Perfect (Opening)

WEEKEND: $5.2 million | TOTAL: $5.2 million

As well as Hotel Transylvania did this weekend, Pitch Perfect scored a slightly higher per-screen average in about a tenth as many screens. This is in no doubt thanks to the strong reviews and the positive buzz on Anna Kendrick. Speaking of reviews, did you read Duncan’s yet? I know he really got me excited to give the movie a chance.

7) Finding Nemo 3D (3rd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $4.1 million | TOTAL: $36.5 million

It is likely Finding Nemo will tack on to its 2003 earnings an even $40 million in additional grosses. That makes it the year’s weakest 3D re-release. An odd phenomenon, considering how popular the movie was during its initial run, but somehow I dont think it will deter Pixar from giving us a Ratatouille 3D sometime in the near future.

8) Resident Evil: Retribution (3rd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $3.0 million | TOTAL: $38.7 million

With a 55 percent drop in the box office this weekend, I seriously doubt Retribution will crack the top ten in its fourth weekend. By the standards of the Resident Evil franchise, this fifth film hasn’t done great; it will just barely out-gross Part I, and will not even come close to the series’ $50.5 million per-installment average. Still, with a whopping $137 million in international business done, this is by no means whatsoever a financial disappointment.

9) The Master (3rd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $2.75 million | TOTAL: $9.6 million

Even with a slight expansion into multiplexes, Paul Thomas Anderson’s awards contender still saw an overall per-screen theater drop, which means it is probably safe to say anybody who had meant to see The Master has likely already done so. This is perhaps not much of a surprise; the movie is far less conventionally satisfying than Anderson’s $40 million-grossing There Will Be Blood. Still, with a drop of only 37.5%, The Master is this weekend’s strongest holdover in the top ten.

10) Won’t Back Down (Opening)

WEEKEND: $2.7 million | TOTAL: $2.7 million

Remember last week when Dredd 3D bombed? Well, that movie’s got nothing on this dud, which is far the weekend’s biggest loser. What has to sting the most is that, were you to make a list of the highest-grossing movies in the “criticisms on the stranglehold teachers’ unions have on the American public education system” sub-sub-sub-genre, Won’t Back Down won’t have even a remote a chance of ranking #1. That honor goes to the hit documentary Waiting for Superman.

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