By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
September 30, 2012
Three new releases plus the rare non-indie platformer were released into theaters this weekend. In the end, first and second place are no surprise. Adam Sandler once again dominates the landscape and rising actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves he’s more appealing with a gun than a bike. Meanwhile, choral films may replace dance flicks in becoming the next big genre for the under 25 demographic, as a movie with “Perfect” in the title excelled in limited opportunity. Also, Maggie Gyllenhaal lost the battle of the Batman co-stars (and the Gyllenhaals) with her film Won’t Back Down failing spectacularly.
Our top film of the weekend is Sony’s animated release Hotel Transylvania, which debuted to a spectacular $43 million in its 3,349 locations. That’s good for a per venue average of $12,839 for the Dracula comedy, which features voice talent from Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and Kevin James. Fortunately for Sony, this pairing of Sandler and Samberg was nothing like this year’s earlier release That’s My Boy, which bombed in the face of terrible reviews and awful commercials. Instead, this monster mash established itself as the top September opener ever, beating 2002’s Sweet Home Alabama, which started with $35.6 million on its way to $127 million.
It had been quite awhile since we had a truly mainstream release aimed at the family demographic. ParaNorman was more of a niche release (and perhaps too truly scary for some children), while Finding Nemo was a re-release that many families already have sitting on their DVD shelf. The last movie that really appealed to kids in a big way was Ice Age: Continental Drift, and that was way back in mid-July.
Reviews were middling for Hotel Transylvania, which was directed (eventually) by Genndy Tartakovsky of Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls fame. Currently, the film sits at 42% at Rotten Tomatoes, with only 36% of “Top Critics” finding something to like. It fares quite a bit better with its target audience, though, as the Cinemascore grade came in at an A-. This would bode well for Hotel Transylvania, but it does have some direct competition coming as soon as next weekend in Disney’s heavily promoted Frankenweenie. Tim Burton is automatically going to attract some viewers, but our suspicion is that Hotel Transylvania may be more the populist choice. while Frankenweenie fills a niche similar to ParaNorman and Coraline.
Looper is a complex time travel film concept with a strong dose of ultra-violence. A film premise such as this may not sound commercially viable, yet the Joseph Gordon-Levitt sci-fi action flick opened extraordinarily well this week. Exhibited in 2,992 locations, Looper debuted to $21.2 million, earning an impressive $7,086 per play date. Audiences did not shy away from one of the most complicated premises since 2010’s Inception.
Writer/director Rian Johnson first attracted attention with Brick, a brilliant teen noir film that became an indie film sensation in 2006. His next project was the quirky 2009 release, The Brothers Bloom, a zany comedy cleverly disguised as a series of crime capers. Brick earned less than $3.8 million worldwide but was still a net positive for a production with a price tag of only $475,000. The Brothers Bloom, on the other hand, was a financial setback because the film cost $20 million to create yet earned only $5.5 million worldwide. Johnson was unable to demonstrate that his eclectic storytelling was sustainable in the mainstream prior to this weekend. Looper changes all of that.