Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
October 2, 2012

As we do every year, BOP celebrates the Ryder Cup.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

Kim Hollis: Hotel Transylvania, Sony's animated film featuring the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and Andy Samberg, set the record for biggest September opening ever this weekend, earning $42.5 million. What do you think about this debut?

Jason Barney: I am not a real fan of the "biggest ever" opening labels, as those are inflation adjusted dollars, but still, this opening is very significant. $43 million is a pretty huge opening for any film, and considering that the last couple of weekends have been so putrid for the box office, this is great for everyone involved. As Hotel Transylvania moves forward, its ratings may hurt it a little bit, but as mentioned in the Weekend Wrap-Up, this is the first big film for kids since Ice Age and that was a while ago. It may not be a great film, but it filled a need at the right time, and the result was embraced by movie goers. Everyone involved should be happy, as this is great news. $42 million, #1 at the box office...there is not any bad news.

Tim Briody: It astounded me that Sweet Home Alabama held the September opening record for exactly 10 years, and that nothing had even topped $40 million in the month at all even as openings have gotten larger and we've gotten away from the notion that films can only open big at specific times. (The longest running monthly record is now February thanks to Passion of the Christ, a record I'm pretty confident will never be broken.) This is an extremely strong opening and shows what happens when you go two months without something aimed directly at the kids/families demographic.

Edwin Davies: I too was surprised to see that Sweet Home Alabama held that record, both because of how long it held it, and because who remembers that film anyway? Anyway, this is a pretty strong result for the film, Sandler, who's coming off two mediocre-to-awful results (though this isn't an "Adam Sandler film" in the way that That's My Boy or Jack and Jill were) and the box office in general. It's a massive improvement on the last few weeks, and even made more than all three of last week's openers combined. It'll probably hold fairly well in the coming weeks, too, since even though it's going up against Frankenweenie next week, that film will probably have a much smaller audience owing to its more overt darkness and the fact that people seem to be getting a bit tired of Tim Burton these days. All in all, I think this is a pretty strong result with hardly any downside.

Matthew Huntley: I expected Hotel to open around $30 million, similar to Sony's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs from 2009, so this result is impressive no matter how you look at it. On the other hand, I'm not entirely surprised, because audience anticipation was high and kids/families are already in Halloween mode (some stores started selling Halloween decorations/costumes/candy as early as late August!). Plus, and maybe this is just me amongst us BOP analysts, but the movie had a very catchy trailer. I remember it debuted with Brave back in June and it was cut in such a way that made it seem fresh, funny and entertaining. If I was a kid, I would have been eagerly awaiting this movie to open and begging mom and dad to take me once it had. In any event, this has helped the industry as a whole, and since Sony has already confirmed a Cloudy sequel, I've little doubt a Hotel sequel may also already be in the works.

Shalimar Sahota: Nothing wrong with winning the weekend with a $40 million+ take, so Sony ought to be pleased. I imagine that a few iconic monsters in animated form might have played just as much of a part as the voice talent in bringing people in. I just like the idea of a hotel for monsters and am a little surprised that it's taken a while to bring it to the mainstream. If not a sequel, I can see this working equally as well as a cartoon TV series.

Reagen Sulewski: These aren't quite summer animated movie numbers (See: Despicable Me), but it's a respectable figure given that animated films aren't a sure thing anymore. It's also important for its stars, who had probably been feeling a bit vulnerable after the relative failure of That's My Boy. I don't think Sandler and Samberg had all that much to do with why it drew this month, but it likely did give the studio enough confidence that they *could* sell this, and deigned to give it a big push.

David Mumpower: I agree with Huntley's line of reasoning regarding the trailer. I would add that some film concepts simply work better than others. The idea of an entire group of kid-friendly gothic icons is every bit as clever as Toy Story or Night at the Museum. The box office battle for Hotel Transvylania was won during the pitch meeting.

We have chronicled Adam Sandler's struggles as he attempts to move beyond the arrested development frat boy humor into the next phase of his career. Jack & Jill could have been a career killer, at least for a time. This turn of events precluded the movie from being marketed primarily as a Sandler showcase, a serendipitous twist for Sony even if it is bad news for the comedian himself.

I also believe that the quality vacuum that we mention from time to time here at BOP is a factor here. Ignoring the Finding Nemo re-release, there had not been a high profile animated release since the weekend of July 13th when Ice Age: Continental Drift debuted. That ten week gap inflated demand for worthy family film choice.

Kim Hollis: I think there really is something to the notion that the trailer did a great job of selling the film. It's a nice subversion of the vampire genre and reminds me of the Groovie Goolies from many many years ago (I'm probably the only person here who remembers that show). Monsters being silly is fun. The "I do not say 'blah blah blah'" line is funny for some inexplicable reason. It appealed to a mainstream audience.

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

Kim Hollis: Looper, the sci-fi travel movie reuniting Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Brick director Rian Johnson, earned $20.8 million this weekend. How should Sony feel about this result?

Jason Barney: With a production budget of $30 million, there is no other way to look at this but a win. Sometime next week, Looper will have matched its production budget domestically. That is no small achievement. Most studios drool at returns like this. I'm not sure what the advertising numbers were, but $21 million is a nice number for opening weekend. It probably could have been a little higher, based on a lack of competition in the action genre, but no one will be tossing and turning wondering how this will perform over the long hall. The ratings are so good, it is only going to benefit the film's dollar output from here on out. It is nice to see another win for Bruce Willis, by the way. Sometimes I think he is slighted as an actor and maybe he doesn't take on all the best roles, but this is a nice showing for him.

Edwin Davies: Sony should feel very pleased with this result. Looper was always going to be a risky proposition owing to its complex, hard sci-fi plot and the fact that both its star and director are pretty much untested when it comes to delivering a commercial hit. (JGL has been in some very, very successful films but was never the draw, and anyone who saw Premium Rush's numbers knows that prior to this he was not a strong draw on his own.) That the film did so well is a testament to the strength of the material - I saw the film today and loved it - and the marketing, which sold the intrigue and spectacle without giving too much away. As far as legs go, I could see the film either doing great as people talk about what a cool original action film it is, or cratering as they talk about what a headscratcher it is, but the budget was so modest that either way it'll wind up being in the black before it leaves theaters. Ideally, though, it'd become a leggy hit and justify studios taking a couple more risks like this in the future. Or traveling back in time and taking those risks in the past.

Matthew Huntley: Sony, particularly TriStar, was one of many hands involved the marketing and distribution of this film. They didn't actually produce it. So they should be very pleased indeed. Without having to incur production costs, they may already be in the black on their investment (similar to their involvement with District 9). From here on out, with likely strong legs and even more revenue from the home market, this should be mostly gravy for the studio.

Shalimar Sahota: For such a strange yet remarkably original idea, I'd see it as a win that it actually got funded and released in the first place. That it opened with over $20 million is even better, and I'd probably attribute a good chunk of that down to the casting of Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (if he's wielding a huge gun, he's a draw). Reviews are through the roof, so hopefully it'll have some staying power and strong word-of-mouth. However, there's an inkling that some audiences will stay away, likely down to not wanting to get involved with something that looks like it might be convoluted (even though it isn't).

Reagen Sulewski: It was the weekend of shaky former mega-stars, apparently. Willis needed a hit badly, and given the challenging premise of the film, this more than counts. It's a win for all involved really, including Rian Johnson, who after being quirkier than quirky, likely has offers being fired his way now that he's proven he can be commercial, even though it's mostly just Primer with the rough edges filed off (you should make plans to see this yesterday. You'll get that after you see it). And JGL (we're tight like that) gets to have a hit under his name as well.

David Mumpower: Given the borderline oppressive complexity of Looper, I consider this to be an exceptional debut for a modest production. The fact that its overseas take is $36 million borders on staggering for such a modest financial outlay. Looper will wind up being one of the strongest performers of 2012 in terms of return on investment. This is great news for Reagen's dear friend, JGL, who really needed a hit to establish his credibility after the bike movie was such a dud.

In my estimation, the big winner is not an actor, though. Looper has already earned more than double the total of director's Rian Johnson's previous two movies in combination. In Hollywood circles, he has just gone from being an obscure indie director with promise to another Duncan Jones. Given that this is the career trajectory that Christopher Nolan once followed, it's a good path to walk if an auteur handles the pressure well.

Max Braden: The look of this movie reminded me of Justin Timberlake's sci-fi movie In Time, which opened to $12 million at the end of October last year, which MMQB thought was a disappointment. I had predicted $15 for Looper in the Trailer Hitch for it, so I think $21 million is a positive result. I liked the movie, but I do wonder how audiences are going to remember it. JGL doesn't look very Gordon-Levitt, and Bruce Willis's character has a pretty big character flaw that is tough to overcome.