In a sizable victory for Sony, 3D toon Hotel Transylvania debuted to an estimated $43 million — the biggest opening since The Dark Knight Rises and the top September bow ever. It’s also the best performance to date for the studio’s animation unit.
The good news didn’t end there. Looper, released by Sony’s TriStar label in tandem with FilmDistrict and Endgame Entertainment, took the No. 2 spot with a $21.2 million bow. The performance of the two films propelled Sony to No. 1 in domestic market share with $1.285 billion, slipping ahead of Warner Bros., according to Sony.
Looper, a Chinese co-production, also is doing impressive opening business in China, where it’s expected to gross $23 million-$25 million for the weekend.
Hotel Transylvania rolled out in 13 foreign markets, grossing $8.1 million for a worldwide bow of $51.1 million. Mexico led with a stellar $3.6 million.
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, Hotel Transylvania was fueled by word-of-mouth (the film received an A- CinemaScore in North America) and pent-up demand for family product. The film’s voice cast is led by Adam Sandler — who plays an overly protective Dracula and hotel owner — Selena Gomez and Kevin James.
Sony Pictures Animation’s previous top debut was The Smurfs, which opened to $35.6 million in summer 2011. The previous best September bow was Sweet Home Alabama ($35.6 million).
Hotel Transylvania also scored the biggest September day in history with $19 million on Saturday, beating Sweet Home Alabama‘s $14.7 million in 2002.
Sony Pictures Digital Productions president Bob Osher and Sony Animation president of production Michelle Raimo Kouyate drove development and production of the movie, which cost $85 million to produce.
“More than anything, this film has been such a collaboration of talent, and it paid off in such a huge way. Everyone in our company just loved this film. And to perform at this level in September shows that Hotel Transylvania has something for everyone,” Sony worldwide president of distribution Rory Bruer said.
“And to have a second film [Looper] do so well is an incredible feat,” Bruer added.
Looper, directed by Rian Johnson, received stellar reviews. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.
Males made up nearly 60 percent of Looper’s audience domestically, while 70 percent of ticke buyers were 25 and older.
Thanks to Hotel Transylvania and Looper, which received a B+ CinemaScore, weekend revenue should be up 24 percent from last year, ending a post-summer losing streak.
The grim news of the weekend? Walden Media wide release Won’t Back Down, distributed by 20th Century Fox, opened to a dismal $2.7 million, only good enough for a 10th-place finish. The education drama, starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, was handily beaten by Universal musical comedy Pitch Perfect, even though that film was only in limited release.
Pitch Perfect grossed $5.2 million from 335 theaters, placing No. 6 and scoring a pleasing location average of $15,560, the best of the weekend. The movie, earning an A CinemaScore and fueled by females, expands nationwide next weekend and Universal is hopeful that the strong limited start portends good business to come.
Among holdovers, Open Road Films and Exclusive Media’s End of Watch held well, placing No. 3 with a gross of $8 million and 10-day domestic cume of $26.2 million. The film fell a narrow 40 percent.