Box Office Preview: Sony Takes on Sony for #1!

September comes to a close with one last chance at recovering from one of the weakest box offices in recent memory. At least one studio has nothing to lose this weekend as Sony Pictures is involved with distributing two of the three wide releases with a guarantee that at least one, if not both of them, will top the box office. (So essentially, like in one of those two new movies, it’s going to be Sony taking on itself!)

Adam Sandler gives another go at animated comedy with Hotel Transylvania (Sony), a movie that takes all the classic movie monsters and puts them together with an all-star voice cast including singers Selena Gomez and Cee Lo Green, comedians Andy Samberg, Kevin James, David Spade, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon and more. This one is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, a Cartoon Network veteran and the man behind such classic cartoons as “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack” and the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” series, and it’s the latter two that may help the movie interest teen and older males who normally might see this as a kiddie movie not worth their time.

Sony Pictures Animation has struggled over the years to make any sort of mark against the Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky Films releases, but they’ve had relatively decent success with their late September releases. Their first animated movie Open Season opened this same weekend in 2006 with $23.6 million before grossing $84 million, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs opening with $30 million in September three years ago and grossed nearly $125 million domestically. (Open Season got two straight-to-DVD sequels while the “Cloudy” sequel will be in theaters in 2014.)

There’s a good chance that many fathers will want to go see this with their kids… although now that we think about it, we said the same thing about Sandler’s last movie That’s My Boy, which also co-starred Samberg, so we’d like to have that thought stricken from the record. The lack of family movies in theaters other than the Finding Nemo 3D rerelease and Focus’ ParaNorman, already out for over a month, will benefit the movie as will its ultrawide release and the 3D ticket prices, which makes us think this should do better than most expect. Sony’s also done a good job marketing the movie with well-placed TV ads that have helped to raise awareness both among parents and kids, and with a strong premise and a voice cast that will draw in different demographics, we see Hotel Transylvania winning the weekend with between $25 and 28 million. We’ll have to see how it fares when it goes up against Tim Burton’s similar horror-comedy Frankenweenie next week, but we think it should be good for $85 to 90 million by the time all is said and done.

Video Interview with Genndy Tartakovsky

Video Interviews with Cast

Then again, we expect that most guys over 15 will be more interested in Looper (TriStar Pictures), the third movie from filmmaker Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom), starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as futuristic hitmen with the big twist being that… wait for it… they’re the same guy! Despite the cast and the high concept, it’s not a straight science-fiction action movie like we’ve seen from both actors previously – JGL’s InceptIon did significantly better than Willis’ The Surrogates, which opened this same weekend three years ago with less than $15 million. This one is based on an original idea which tends to be a draw for moviegoers bored with the same old sequels and remakes, although it’s hard to tell if JGL has made himself a box office draw since his most recent movie Premium Rush opened with a disappointing $6 million a couple weeks back.

Although Looper has a rather strange title and premise, what’s going to make the biggest difference is the rave reviews, especially among geek sites like this one which will get a lot of curious guys out to see this over the weekend. On top of that, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was just on “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend, solidifying his popularity and status with the high school and college-age crowd that will be most interested in this movie and building upon the older males already in it for Willis. The R rating may limit the movie’s younger teen audience, but we still think Looper is good for between $16 to 18 million in its opening weekend and between $45 and 50 million total, depending on how well it holds up once the anticipated action sequel Taken 2 enters the market next week.

Video Interviews with Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Emily Blunt

Video Interview with Rian Johnson


The underdog of the weekend is Daniel Barnz’s inspirational drama Won’t Back Down (20th Century Fox/Walden Media), starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Oscar nominee Viola Davis from The Help. The film looks at the fight by a worried parent and a caring teacher to make a difference in the public school system. Davis may be the biggest draw for older women in urban areas who may relate to this struggle, but it’s not exactly a movie subject that’s going to look particularly appealing to casual moviegoers. Besides having to compete with two stronger movies, it’s also competing with last week’s Trouble with the Curve and prominent limited releases for older moviegoers without the critical buzz needed to succeed. Normally, movies like this would open in limited release or at least have sneak previews to drum up word-of-mouth and it may be a little too late for this one. In many ways, it reminds us of the Hilary Swank drama Freedom Writers, which opened in early 2007 with $9.4 million, and that was at a time when moviegoers were more adventurous than they are now. To many, this will look like something that they can just as easily see on DVD and cable, and because of that, this one’s probably not going to do more than $7 million its opening weekend and probably around $20 million total.


Interview with Director Daniel Barnz

Video Interviews with Cast

This weekend last year, four new movies opened but none of them were able to get into the Top 3 which was reshuffled so that the previous week’s #3 movie Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.) came out on top with $13.9 million, followed by Moneyball remaining in second place with $12 million and The Lion King 3D in third with $10.6 million. The new movies ended up grossing the reverse order to the number of theaters in which they were released with the Christian drama Courageous (TriStar Pictures) earning $9 million in 1,161 theaters, followed by the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Seth Rogen cancer comedy 50/50 (Summit) with $8.6 million in 2,458 theaters and the Jim Sheridan thriller Dream House (Universal), starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz taking sixth place with $8.1 million. Opening in over 3,000 theaters was the comedy What’s Your Number? (20th Century Fox), starring Anna Faris, which tanked with just $5.4 million for eighth place. The Top 10 grossed $83 million and since we expect two of the three new movies to do quite well, we think this weekend will be even or slightly up from last year.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Hotel Transylvania (Sony Pictures) – $26.2 million N/A (same)

2. Looper (TriStar Pictures) – $18.3 million N/A (up .5 million)

3. End of Watch (Open Road) – $7.2 million -45%

4. Trouble with the Curve (Warner Bros.) – $7.1 million -42%

5. Won’t Back Down (20th Century Fox) – $6.5 million N/A (down .1 million)

6. House at the End of the Street (Relativity Media) – $5.5 million -55%

7. Finding Nemo 3D (Disney) – $5.2 million -46%

8. The Master (The Weinstein Company) – $3.1 million -30%

9. Dredd 3D (Lionsgate) – $3 million -52%

10. Resident Evil: Retribution (Screen Gems/Sony) – $2.9 million -57%

While we have nothing that we deemed worthy of being “The Chosen One,” one of the more interesting limited releases is Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures), the competitive a capella comedy directed by Avenue Q director Jason Moore and starring Anna Kendrick as a hip chick who arrives at college with dreams of being a DJ. She gets roped into singing in an a capella group led by Brittany Snow and Anna Camp, who put together a motly crew of singers including Rebel Wilson from “Bridesmaids.” Universal had this opening in wide release next week for a while but then they decided to give it a limited release on Friday in just over 300 theatres. We can see this bringing in roughly $2 million this weekend, but it should do essentially what’s intended, which is to create word-of-mouth among young women on social networks to help its wide expansion next week.

Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s crime-thriller Headshot (Kino Lorber) involves a cop named Tul being framed for a crime he didn’t commit and becoming a hitman. When he’s shot in the head, he sees everything upside-down as he tries to get out of the business and becomes a target himself. We saw this at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and were really blown away. We think it would make a great double feature with Rian Johnson’s Looper if you happen to live in one of the cities where this is playing.

Oddly, two movies made in 2009 that have been doing the festival circuit for years are finally being released in the States this weekend as Gremlins director Joe Dante returns with The Hole (Big Air Studios), a 3D thriller involving a group of kids discovering a bottomless hole in their new house that unleashes evil upon them.

British actor James Purefoy takes on the role of Robert E. Howard’s pulp fiction anti-hero Solomon Kane (Radius – TWC) in the action-thriller directed by Michael J. Bassett (whose Silent Hill: Revelation 3D opens in a month). The film follows the 16th Century pirate turned missionary who tries to live a quiet life until he experiences a dark power that’s threatening the land and forces him back into violent action.

Interview with James Purefoy and Director Michael J. Bassett

Actress Famke Janssen makes her directorial debut with Bringing Up Bobby (Monterey Media), starring Milla Jovovich as Olive, a con artist with a 10-year-old son named Bobby (Spencer List), who end up in Oklahoma where she tries to give him a normal life until a run-in with a local businessman (Bill Pullman) brings Olive’s past back to haunt her. It opens in select cities.

Opening on Wednesday in New York at the IFC Center is Peter Nick’s doc The Waiting Room (International Film Circuit), which looks at the day-to-day of the overly crowded waiting room of Oakland’s Highland Hospital, which is desperately fighting for survival in an economic downturn.

Next week, the anticipated action sequel Taken 2 (20th Century Fox), once again starring Liam Neeson, is coming out, as will Tim Burton’s latest foray into stop-motion animation, Frankenweenie (Walt Disney Pictures), which doesn’t feature Johnny Depp… at all. Plus the aforementioned Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures), starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, will expand nationwide.

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Also check out the return of the “Long Distance Box Office” column with our look at the upcoming 23rd James Bond movie Skyfall here.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas


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