It was a very good weekend for Sony at the box office, as Columbia's Hotel Transylvania and TriStar's Looper were off to strong starts while comfortably co-existing with one another. Hotel Transylvania led the way with a stronger than expected first place estimated start of $43.0 million. The computer animated film featuring the vocal talent of Adam Sandler set a new record for the largest unadjusted September debut of all-time, topping the previous record of $35.65 million set by Sweet Home Alabama way back in 2002. It should be noted that 1998's Rush Hour still holds the record for largest adjusted September opening weekend when taking into account ticket price inflation (with an adjusted gross of $56.43 million from an actual gross of $33.00 million).
Hotel Transylvania also generated the largest opening weekend ever for Sony Pictures Animation. The previous record holder had been the $35.61 million launch of last year's The Smurfs, while the production company's previous high-water mark for a full length animated film was the $30.30 million start of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs back in September of 2009. Family audiences were responsible for 76 percent of the audience breakdown of Hotel Transylvania this weekend. The film's audience members 12 years and older skewed female (60 percent), while the breakdown for children 12 years and younger was more evenly split (52 percent girls, 48 percent boys).
Going forward, Hotel Transylvania could take a bit of a hit next weekend from the debut of Disney's Frankenweenie. But even if that is the case, Hotel Transylvania will still have a good chance of topping Frankenweenie in the rankings next weekend and will be in great position to hold up well throughout the rest of October. The film earned an encouraging A- rating on CinemaScore and should benefit from continued business from family audiences as the Halloween holiday approaches.
Looper took second place with an estimated $21.2 million. The sci-fi action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis opened on the high end of pre-release expectations. That comes as very welcome news for Gordon-Levitt, who was coming off of the lackluster performance of Premium Rush back in August. The opening weekend performance of Looper was in the same neighborhood as the $21.76 million start of 2010's Red. While Looper will be hard pressed to match the holding power of Red, odds are good that the film will hold up well in its own right. Looper has been well received by critics, though its B rating on CinemaScore was less impressive in comparison. The film will also face major competition next weekend from the anticipated launch of Fox's Taken 2. The audience for Looper skewed towards males (59 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 and older (70 percent).
The international news for Looper was especially good in China. Looper, which was co-produced by Chinese company DMG Entertainment, is currently projected to gross in the neighborhood of $24 million in China this weekend. If the number holds, it would represent the first time a major American release has opened larger in China than in North America.
In limited release, Universal's Pitch Perfect was off to an impressive estimated $5.2 million start from just 335 locations. That gave the PG-13 comedy starring Anna Kendrick a healthy per-location average of $15,552 for the frame and placed the film in sixth place among all films this weekend. This weekend's performance in limited release is a very positive sign for the film's expansion into wide release next weekend. Pitch Perfect skewed heavily towards female moviegoers (74 percent) and received an A rating on CinemaScore.
Meanwhile, Fox's Won't Back Down only managed an estimated $2.7 million this weekend to finish in tenth. The modestly budgeted drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis opened below its already modest expectations. The film losing out to Pitch Perfect by a wide percentage margin this weekend, despite playing in 2,180 more locations than Pitch Perfect, is especially disappointing.
After opening in close proximity to one another last weekend, Open Road's End of Watch, Warner's Trouble with the Curve and Relativity's House at the End of the Street continued to perform similarly this weekend. End of Watch fell 39 percent to gross an estimated $8.0 million, Trouble with the Curve fell 38 percent to gross an estimated $7.5 million and House at the End of the Street fell 42 percent to take in an estimated $7.15 million. All three films held up well, especially when taking into account the performances of this weekend's new releases as a whole. Respective ten-day totals stand at $26.17 million for End of Watch, at $23.73 million for Trouble with the Curve and at $22.22 million for House at the End of the Street.