This fall brings not only the standard Halloween-weekend horror movie, but two creepy animated features. The first to release, Hotel Transylvania (3,349 theatres), should top the box office this weekend. The Sony Pictures Animation release is projected to earn in the $25-30 million range.
Its spooky competitor, Frankenweenie, opens next week, so Hotel Transylvania will need to make a positive impact with viewers to make it the first choice for families in weeks to come. According to THR's Michael Rechtshaffen, that's unlikely to happen. The comedy "falls flat virtually from the get-go." The cute plot idea, which centers on Dracula and the resort he runs for fellow monsters, is "an anemic example
of pure concept over precious little content."
Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same person, only at different times, in Looper (2,992 theatres), a sci-fi feature that's been receiving positive buzz on the festival circuit. "Sci-fi and action audiences have a new cult film," proclaims critic Kevin Lally. Willis' character is sent
back in time to be killed by his younger self (Gordon-Levitt) in this decade-hopping feature, which also has a telekinesis plotline. Discerning viewers will appreciate the "gratifying, idiosyncratic touches" that make the alternate world feel that much more real. However, its R-rating means it will have a hard time matching the returns of a 3D family movie. Looper should end up in the $15 million range, though with a 93% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, the action/sci-fi combo is poised for a long run.
Won't Back Down (2,515 theatres) stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a parent and Viola Davis as a teacher and parent who vow to take back their underperforming school and create something that will help their children learn. The inspirational
movie has drawn some fire from teacher unions, since the parents go around the union to accomplish their goal. Critic Doris Toumarkine took greater issue with the "literal" telling of the story, which "gives viewers what they want to see," but at the expense of originality. The result is a "well-done, well-meaning but predictable" drama that's unlikely to fire viewers up. With awareness low (perhaps it's hard to market to PTAs [parent-teacher associations] when the "T" is wary of your movie), the Fox feature should end up in the $5-10 million range.
Universal is releasing college a capella comedy Pitch Perfect in 335 theatres this weekend, in advance of a wide release next weekend. The
hope is that packed theatres full of laughing viewers will result in positive word-of-mouth for the wide expansion. The "energy and execution," according to critic David Noh, elevate the so-so content. He speculates that the actors are "probably ad-libbing like mad" in order to breathe life into the dialogue and round out their characters. A debut in the $2 million range should give this comedy plenty of momentum through its second weekend.
On Monday, we'll see if this stronger slate of new releases helps bring the box office back into competition with the year-over-year figures. In recent weeks, the box office has been down 10-20% from the previous year.