Hotel Transylvania 2 was not the only new release this weekend, but it was the only one that set box office records. The animated sequel has claimed the all-time highest debut for September with an estimated $47.5 million. Appropriately enough, the former record holder was Hotel Transylvania, which opened on this same frame in 2012. The first film went on to earn $148.3 million in North America and $358.3 million worldwide. In terms of animated titles, Hotel Transylvania doesn’t even crack the all-time top 50. But for September – one of the lowest-grossing months of any year – the film, and now its sequel, are genuine blockbusters.
This is welcome news for Sony, the studio behind Hotel Transylvania 2. In a year that saw a disproportionate share of box office grosses go to Universal and Disney, Sony’s biggest ‘hits’ were the universally reviled Pixels and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. The studio rebounded a bit this month: posting two number one wins in a row with War Room and The Perfect Guy (under their TriStar and Screen Gems banners). But with Hotel Transylvania 2 giving them their best opening of the year, not to mention the best opening ever for Sony Animation, the once beleaguered studio finally has something to celebrate.
Hotel Transylvania 2 also provides redemption, of sorts, for Adam Sandler. Along with Pixels and Mall Cop 2 (Sandler co-produced the latter), the actor has been involved with a remarkable number of critical and financial misfires in recent years. And just as Hotel Transylvania deflected attention from That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill, the sequel’s record-breaking opening should work similar wonders in the wake of Pixels and Blended. In fact, Hotel Transylvania 2 may have earned Sandler a new career-high opening. His previous best was 2005’s The Longest Yard with $47.6 million – just $100,000 above the current estimate for HT2. We’ll have to wait for Monday’s actual earnings report to see if Sandler has indeed topped himself (not adjusted for inflation, of course).
Warner Bros.’ The Intern debuted in second place with an estimated $18.2 million. That’s pretty much where projections had the latest feature from writer/director Nancy Meyers opening – between her previous releases Something’s Gotta Give ($16 million) and It’s Complicated ($22.1 million). CinemaScore audiences gave The Intern a promising A- (the same grade as Hotel Transylvania 2), though reviews have been more mixed (56% on Rotten Tomatoes). Even so, the comedy has the potential to play well in the coming weeks, especially as a counterbalance to fall’s typical feast of dramas.
One such drama, Universal’s Everest, is at number four. Last weekend the studio made the unusual decision to release the disaster pic in a limited IMAX, IMAX 3D, and premium large format run. The move was meant to build word of mouth in the manner of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, though I’m not sure it payed off. Earlier this week expectations for the film’s first nationwide frame were in the $15 million range. Instead, Everest barely topped $13 million from 3,006 locations. Even adding last weekend’s $7.2 million from 545 screens, Everest fails to impress. The film could even end up as Universal’s first box office disappointment since Ted 2 – especially with The Martian poised to dominate IMAX and other large format venues next weekend.
The weekend’s final new release made it into the top ten – barely. The Green Inferno, the long-delayed horror movie from director Eli Roth (Hostel) earned an estimated $3.49 million from 1,540 locations. That might have passed had the film carried the kind of micro-budget that Jason Blum is known for (The Green Inferno was jointly released by Blum’s new BH Tilt distribution label and High Top Releasing) but that is not the case. The film’s reported budget before marketing is $6 million – about where Inferno was expected to open. After failing to generate enthusiasm (CinemaScore audiences gave it a C-) Inferno is unlikely to stick around long enough to redeem itself. Compare that to the Blum-produced The Visit, which not only outperformed Inferno on its third weekend but has already grossed more than ten times its original budget.
Finally, after claiming the year’s best per-screen average with its initial release in six locations one week ago, Sicario made its first appearance in the top ten this weekend. Now expanded to 59 theatres, the action drama claimed an estimated $1.77 million for an average of $30,000 per location.
Overall, the box office was up an impressive 25% over the same time last year, when The Equalizer opened in first with $34.1 million. Looking ahead to October’s first frame, Ridley Scott’s The Martian should help 2015 collect another win. Expectations for the film’s debut are in the $50 million range, based largely on the fact that Gravity opened with $55.7 million on the same frame in 2013. Of course, a similar theme does not guarantee a similar level of success. On the other hand, the fact that Scott’s last sci-fi release, Prometheus, topped $50 million is probably a good sign for The Martian.
Here’s the weekend’s top ten, based on studio estimates:
|1.||Hotel Transylvania 2||$47,500,000||$47.5|
|3.||Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials||$14,000,000||$51.6|
|7.||The Perfect Guy||$4,750,000||$48.8|
|9.||The Green Inferno||$3,494,000||$3.49|