The animated comedy "Hotel Transylvania 2" made $47.5 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend to become the biggest September movie opening of all time.
The sequel, released by Sony's Columbia Pictures label, launched with a robust haul that far exceeded the studio's expectations and beat industry projections, which had the film debuting with $32 million to $37 million. The first "Hotel Transylvania," which had held the September record, opened with $43 million during this same weekend in 2012.
"Transylvania 2" marks the biggest debut for Sony Pictures Animation, which spent about $80 million to produce the film. It also marks the third time in the last four weeks that a Sony Pictures film has been No. 1 at the box office, following the success of the thriller "The Perfect Guy" and the faith-based film "War Room."
"We're on a roll right now," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "This is a huge opening."
"Transylvania 2" features the voices of such celebrities as Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez. Like its predecessor, the second film was largely knocked by critics but was well-received by audiences, especially families. Those who saw the PG-rated movie gave it an average grade of A-minus, according to audience polling firm CinemaScore.
An estimated 60% of moviegoers were younger than 25. Moviegoers also skewed female (59%).
"I think there's something in it for everyone whether you're an adult or a kid," Bruer said.
The franchise has also become a hit overseas. It collected $29.2 million from more than 6,500 screens across 42 markets; Sony said that is up about 150% compared with the original. The sequel played especially well in Latin America, particularly Mexico, where it launched with $7.9 million.
Family films have been few since "Minions" opened in July. However, "Hotel Transylvania 2" did face competition from last weekend's top film, "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," which is geared toward a young-adult audience.
The "Maze Runner" sequel fell to the No. 3 spot, adding $14 million to its total domestic gross of $51.7 million.
Coming in second for the weekend, the Warner Bros.' "The Intern" opened with a better-than-expected $18.2 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The film, which cost about $40 million to make, is the latest from director Nancy Meyers ("It's Complicated"). It follows Jules (Anne Hathaway), the young founder of an Internet start-up, after she hires a 70-year-old intern (Robert De Niro).
"Nancy Meyers has an instant credibility," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. executive vice president and general sales manager. "People connect to her concept and the story lines. Beyond that, I think good movies always find a strong audience and this movie was smart and well done."
Moviegoers responded positively to Hathaway and De Niro, giving the film an A-minus average, according to CinemaScore. On Rotten Tomatoes, 56% of the reviews were positive, higher than other new movies this weekend. Audiences were mostly older (55% older than 50) and female (62%).
"The film absolutely delivered to its core audience," Goldstein said. "That demographic doesn't necessarily come out for opening day or opening weekend but they hear good things. ... Word of mouth has clearly started to spread. We expect this to have long play and a big multiple for weeks to come."
Meanwhile, "Everest" added $13 million when expanding to 3,006 theaters in its second weekend. The film from Universal Pictures, Working Title, Cross Creek Pictures and Walden Media opened in a limited number of premium theaters first, in hopes that positive buzz would support the wider release this weekend. To date, the adventure film has made about $23.1 million in the U.S. and Canada and $96.8 million worldwide.
The film about an infamous 1996 expedition on the world's highest mountain has a star-filled ensemble cast that includes Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal. Audiences for the film — 51% were male, and 55% were 35 and older — gave it an A, according to CinemaScore.
Warner Bros.' "Black Mass," which follows the rise of South Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger as played by Johnny Depp, rounded out the top five in its second weekend. It added $11.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $42.6 million.
"The Green Inferno," released by Blumhouse's BH Tilt label in partnership with Focus Features' High Top, opened at No. 9 with $3.5 million. Blumhouse acquired the horror film from Eli Roth ("Cabin Fever") for just under $1 million.
In limited release, Lionsgate's "Sicario" surged 341% after expanding to 59 locations in its second weekend. The film nabbed the No. 10 spot with $1.7 million, for an impressive per-screen average of about $30,000. It will launch in wide release Oct. 2. To date, it's made about $2.4 million.
"Pawn Sacrifice," in its second weekend in limited release, earned just over $1 million after expanding to 781 theaters.
Well Go USA Entertainment's "Lost in Hong Kong," the Mandarin-language follow-up to the 2013 Chinese hit "Lost in Thailand," grossed an estimated $558,900 on 27 screens, for a per-location average of $20,700 in the U.S. and Canada.
But "Stonewall," the Roland Emmerich-directed film that dramatizes the 1969 gay-rights riots at Stonewall Inn in New York, failed to draw art-house audiences following several poor reviews. Roadside Attraction's film grossed just $112,414 in 129 theaters, a per-theater average of $871. The Rotten Tomatoes score is just 9% positive, with many critics lambasting its attempt to depict a pivotal moment in American history.
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FULL COVERAGE: Fall Movie Guide