SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: Hollywood finally can celebrate better box office which breaks a 5-week losing streak. Friday and Saturday overperformed for an ‘up’ weekend: $110M total moviegoing, which is +20% better than last year. And Sony Pictures has $66.2M – or 56% – of it. Saturday especially was an “absolutely huge moviegoing day, one we haven’t seen since July,” an executive told me. It was an especially big day for Amy Pascal and Jeff Blake with maybe the biggest ever #1 and #2 openings for a studio.
Columbia/Sony Animation’s Halloween funhouse Hotel Transylvania (3,349 theaters) got off to a monster start Friday and then soared +73% Saturday for $43M by end of Sunday. That weekend cume beat the record for the all-time September opening (shattering Sweet Home Alabama‘s decade-ago $35.6M though not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices or 3D’s premium). It’s also the highest grossing debut for Sony Pictures Animation. And it’s 2012’s biggest opening since The Dark Knight Rises. Pic also worked for audiences who gave it an ‘A-‘ CinemaScore (‘A’ from females and kids under 18) to guarantee good word of mouth through the month. Sony is claiming Hotel Transylvania cost $85M but I know it cost $104M. Depending on its legs and international preformance, it should gross between $390M-$550M at the worldwide box office. Toon opened day and date in 4 territories including Mexico and Australia.
Bob Osher, president of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, and Michelle Raimo Kouyate, President of Production for Sony Pictures Animation, drove the development and production of Hotel Transylvania. Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Sym-Bionic Titan) directed for what’s his animated feature debut and also is uncredited for writing the story. Voice talent includes Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, CeeLo Green and Molly Shannon. Marketing campaign had multiple spots during the London Olympics as well as a prime presence during summer TV talent show finales and Fall series’ premieres as well as on kids outlets. Promotions and integrations ran across 12 networks. There was an official social game on Facebook developed by Sony Pictures Interactive. The 2 stars with large social footprints, Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez, supported through their social channels. Pic had panel on animation day at Comic-Con where its spin on Dracula, Frankenstein, Murray the Mummy, and more were walk-about characters. The film’s official website let audiences made hotel reservations. There was a Red Carpet premiere at the Toronto Film Fest.
Meanwhile TriStar’s sci-fi actioner Looper (2,992 theaters) leaped to $21.5M. That’s the first time talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt officially opened a movie like a star – something his future self Bruce Willis used to do regularly years ago. Audiences gave it a ‘B’ CinemaScore (‘B+’ from males). Looper delivered an opening weekend audience that was 59% male and 70% aged 25 and older. Sony/TriStar, FilmDistrict, and Endgame Entertainment co-production with China’s DMG Entertainment are behind this Rian Johnson film. It opened during the Chinese National Holiday. The film went through some major changes to please the Chinese investor. The script was rewritten to take place 60 years into the future in China (instead of France) which has become the world’s largest superpower in the world. Also Chinese actress Xu Qing was added to the cast. All this helped Looper’s chance of premiering day and date in China.
But the major studios’ best per screen average ($15,550) on Friday belonged to Universal’s comedy Pitch Perfect which the studio platformed in just 335 theaters. Then this sleeper’s gross went up a big +20% from Friday to Saturday for an extraordinary 6th place in the Top 10. Studio can’t recall another pic pulling in a bigger $5.2M weekend playing in so few locations. The release pattern was too small to even warrant a CinemaScore. Universal execs really talked up this small sizzler in advance and pushed and promoted like crazy. Its unusual platform release in mostly college towns was intended to give its core audience an early chance to sample the film and push out word-of-mouth to a more general audience before Pitch Perfect expands into 2,800 theaters on October 5th. Developed at Universal, the pic’s $17M cost was co-financed with Paul Brooks’ Gold Circle Films. Brooks produced the film alongside Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman for their Brownstone Productions company. Universal has worldwide distribution rights and opens October 4th in New Zealand and rolls out internationally beginning on October 10th. Studio claims it “fell in love” with pic from the script stage, culminating when execs say how strongly it played to audiences. Low-budget sleepers like this have huge profit potential – if marketing costs can be controlled. To that end, Uni hosted the most word-of-mouth screenings than for any film in the studio’s history: performing arts camps, colleges, and general market screenings as fall arrived. Social-media metrics began to outpace similar films at early stages on Facebook. Promos were on Spotify, Starmaker, SongPop, Pandora, Vevo. Uni even did a small early Sept 28th ‘debut’. (It was announced on Sept 6th accompanied by ticketing incentives with Fandango and MovieTickets.) Director Jason Moore (“Avenue Q” on Broadway), screenwriter Kay Cannon (30 Rock, New Girl), and auuthor Mickey Rapkin whose book inspired the film did a ton of press along with the cast anchored by Anna Kendrick and breakout star Rebel Wilson. They also shot a custom single-take lip dub promotional video for the MTV Video Music Awards that aired more than 15 times. The film also was promoted at 22 stops in the American Idol Live! Concert tour with trailer play and a spot running at intermission. Besides the usual TV ads, Pitch Perfect had an unusually long 4-week radio campaign in the top 20 markets and on Ryan Seacrest’s show.
Faring way worse is this weekend’s 4th newcomer Won’t Back Down (2,515 theaters) from Walden Media which is financed by right-wing media multibillionaire Phil Anschutz and also responsible for that pro-school privatization documentary Waiting For Superman. This time it’s another propaganda film masquerading as a drama about school reform – but it’s really an anti-teachers union polemic using classy stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis and Holly Hunter for cover. Anyway, the pic bombed with only a $1.1 weekend only good enough for 10th place despite receiving an ‘A-‘ CinemaScore from its tiny audience. Fox has a deal to distribute Walden Media which 100% financed the pic and spent a fortune on TV ads. Director is Daniel Barnz, credited screenwriters Brin Hill and Daniel Barnz, producer Mark Johnson.
Here are updated Top Ten with order based on weekend estimates:
1. Hotel Transylvania 3D (Sony Animation) NEW [3,349 Runs] PG
Friday $11.0M, Saturday $19.0M, Weekend $43.0M
2. Looper (Film District/TriStar/Sony) NEW [2,992 Runs] R
Friday $6.8M, Saturday $8.8M, Weekend $21.3M
3. End Of Watch (Open Road) Week 2 [3,083 Runs] R
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $7.8M (-41%), Cume $25.9M
4. Trouble With The Curve (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,212 Runs] PG13
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $7.5M (-38%), Cume $23.7M
5. House At End Of Street (Relativity) Week 2 [3,083 Runs] PG13
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $7.3M (-40%), Cume $22.4M
6. Pitch Perfect (Universal) NEW [335 Runs] PG
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $5.2M
7. Finding Nemo 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 3 [2,639 Runs] G
Friday $1.0M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $36.4M
8. Resident Evil 5 3D (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 3 [2,381 Runs] R
Friday $810K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.0M, Cume $38.7M
9. The Master (Weinstein Co) Week 3 [856 Runs] R
Friday $787K, Saturday $1.2M, Weekend $2.7M, Cume $9.6M
10. Won’t Back Down (Walden/Fox) NEW [2,515 Runs] PG
Friday $920K, Saturday $1.0M, Weekend $2.6M