By Amy Kaufman
3:40 PM EDT, September 27, 2012
"Hotel Transylvania" will suck the life out of its rivals at the box office this weekend, as the animated monster flick is set to dominate ticket sales.
The 3-D film should easily claim the No. 1 position with a solid debut of around $35 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys -- though Sony Pictures, which is distributing the film, is expecting a softer opening of between $25 million and $30 million.
Sony is also releasing "Looper," the sci-fi time-travel film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis that is set to launch with a robust sum of around $22 million. The weekend's other new release, the education drama "Won't Back Down," will likely bomb with an unimpressive $4-million debut.
"Hotel Transylvania," which features characters voiced by celebrities Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and others, is a father-daughter comedy built around classic monster characters like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy.
The film is the latest project from Sony Pictures Animation, whose most recent release "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" underwhelmed at the domestic box office in April. The studio is betting that its new animated film will be able to replicate the success of some of its more popular titles, including last year's "The Smurfs" and 2009's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." "The Smurfs" was the studio's biggest hit by far, collecting over $560 million worldwide and spawning a sequel.
Sony spent $100 million to produce "Transylvania," according to an individual close to the production. However, a studio spokesman insisted the actual cost of the film was $85 million. The movie is opening overseas this weekend in four foreign markets, including Mexico and Australia.
The thriller "Looper," meanwhile," stars Gordon-Levitt as a time-traveling younger version of Willis' assassin character. The movie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month to strong reviews, and currently has an excellent 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Looper" was financed by Endgame Entertainment for around $30 million, but is being released by Sony's TriStar label. The movie, which is generating the most interest among males under age 35, is the third film starring Gordon-Levitt to hit theaters this year. After his supporting role in the summer smash "The Dark Knight Rises," the 31-year-old appeared as a bike messenger in "Premium Rush," which bombed at the box office with only $19.7 million in ticket sales.
Though it was financed for only $19 million by Walden Media, "Won't Back Down" still looks to have a disappointing run at the box office. The movie, starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal as two parents attempting to take over a school, has received the worst reviews of any of the weekend's debuts.
20th Century Fox, the studio distributing the adult drama, is hoping it will inspire discussion among older females the way "issue" films like "Erin Brockovich" and "Norma Rae" did. The movie has already sparked conversation in the teaching community, among pro-union advocates concerned about the film's message.
In limited release, Universal Pictures will debut "Pitch Perfect" in 335 locations -- a rare move for a major studio with a commercial film. Universal decided upon the platform release with the hope that the tactic would generate positive buzz before the movie bows nationwide on Oct. 5. Co-financed by the studio and Paul Brooks’ Gold Circle Films for $17 million, the comedy stars Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick in a story about a college acapella group.
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