WINNER OF THE WEEK: Sony. The studio’s new releases grabbed the top two spots and an estimated $64 million in ticket sales. Debuting at Number One was Hotel Transylvania, which scared up a monstrous $43.0 million, according to the studio. Not only is that way more than anyone expected (most pundits, assuming the month-long box office slump would continue, picked it to open in the mid-20s), or way more than any Adam Sandler movie has earned lately (he hasn’t had a debut this big since The Longest Yard, seven years ago), but it’s also more than any movie premiering in September has ever earned. (It beats the record set 10 years ago by Sweet Home Alabama, which opened with $35.6 million.) Credit the horror/comedy cartoon’s clever marketing, its character cast of beloved movie monsters, strong reviews, and the absence of other new family films at the multiplex.
If that weren’t enough, Sony’s Looper also exceeded expectations, opening in second place with $21.2 million. Few expected the time-travel thriller to open higher than $20 million, given its unfamiliar premise and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dubious status as a box office draw. (It’s only been a couple of weeks since Premium Rush flopped.) Still, the film also had the reliable Bruce Willis, very positive reviews and not much genre competition. (There was Resident Evil: Retribution, which fell to eighth place after three weeks of release.)
The movies that made up last weekend’s three-way photo finish didn’t fare too badly, either. Jake Gyllenhaal’s police drama End of Watch, which barely edged out two rivals last week, fell to third with an estimated $8.0 million, followed by Clint Eastwood’s Trouble With the Curve ($7.5 million) and Jennifer Lawrence’s House at the End of the Street ($7.2 million). Each of these movies lost about 40 percent of last week’s business, a very modest drop for any movie’s second weekend.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Public schoolchildren. Maggie Gyllenhaal didn’t fare as well as her little brother. Her parents-vs.-the-school-system drama Won’t Back Down had been expected to open around $6 million; instead it mustered only an estimated $2.7 million, settling for a 10th-place debut. It didn’t help that neither she nor fellow Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis is a box office draw, or that the grim topic may have encouraged viewers to wait until it’s on home video, or that there are three or four other recent releases with grown-up appeal (most moms were probably taking the little ones to see Transylvania). But what really killed it were the lackluster reviews, which this movie’s target audience would actually care enough to read.
REBEL REBEL: We’re used to seeing a certain type of roly-poly male comic actor – think John Belushi, John Candy or Chris Farley – who’s not afraid to throw himself into physical comedy, but who also gets to play a lead who’s considered attractive through sheer force of personality. On paper, there’s no reason why curvy comic actresses couldn’t bluster their way onto this turf, but it hasn’t really happened until recently. There’s Melissa McCarthy, whose fearless Bridesmaids performance earned her an Oscar nomination and jump-started a possible Candy-like career in movies – just watch the trailer, released this week, for Identity Thief. And then there’s Australian import Rebel Wilson, who co-starred in Bridesmaids and who stars in two new comedies this month. Bachelorette didn’t make much of an impact, but Pitch Perfect opened very strongly this weekend, grabbing an estimated $5.2 million and sixth place, even though it was playing on just 335 screens. That’s a per-screen average of $15,522, better than any other movie this week. Those numbers suggest great crossover potential for Pitch Perfect when it opens wide next weekend – and a bright big-screen future for Wilson.