'Hotel Transylvania' Tops Solid September

by Ray Subers
Hotel Transylvania

October 3, 2012

September is typically a slow month at the box office, and this year was no exception: overall business came in at around $571 million, which is easily the lowest-grossing month so far this year. It was off five percent from last September's record-setting $603.5 million, and was the third month in a row and fifth of the last six to wind up lower than its 2011 predecessor. Still, it was an improvement over every other September, and a lot of that can be attributed to the strong final weekend led by Hotel Transylvania.

In just three days, Hotel Transylvania became the highest-grossing movie of September 2012 thanks to its record $42.5 million opening weekend. That accounts for just 7.4 percent of overall business for the month, which is the lowest share since John Q. made up 7.2 percent of February 2002's grosses. It's also the lowest-grossing monthly winner since The Others ($34.4 million) in September 2001. This explains all the slump talk—without a clear front-runner, the state of the box office seemed much worse than it actually was.

The Possession placed second for the month with $41.3 million. The Sam Raimi-produced horror movie is technically an August release (it opened on the last day of that month) and through the end of September had earned $47.4 million. It should ultimately get close to $50 million, which is a very solid number for a genre flick like this.

In third place, Resident Evil: Retribution earned $38.7 million through its first 17 days. In comparison, the last Resident Evil movie had done $52.1 million through the same point, and Retribution also trails Extinction and Apocalypse. Regardless, it will ultimately make well over $200 million worldwide and will be a profitable movie for Sony.

Finding Nemo 3D grossed $36.4 million through the end of the month. That's less than half of what The Lion King's 3D re-release had made over the same period, and it's also lower than Beauty and the Beast's 3D re-release ($41.1 million). There's clearly declining interest in 3D re-releases, and it will be interesting to see if Monsters, Inc. can reverse this trend at Christmas.

Rounding out the Top Five, Lawless added $31.4 million in September for a total of $36.3 million. That's more than any other recent Labor Day thrillers, including The American ($35.6 million), which is a minor win for this Prohibition-era movie.

A handful of mid-range performers opened at the end of the month and did solid business. End of Watch grossed $26 million through its first 10 days, which is about as much as writer-director David Ayer's last movie, Street Kings, grossed in its entire run. Trouble with the Curve performed more like a Clint Eastwood directing gig than an acting one with just $23.5 million over 10 days, while House at the End of The Street did a decent $22.2 million over the same period.

Finally, Looper made a good $20.8 million in the final three days of the month. The movie's ultimate success will come down to how it holds up against direct competition from Taken 2 and Argo over the next two weekends.

For every mild success, there was a major bomb. The Words grossed a pathetic $11.4 million, while Dredd was a disaster with just $11 million. Despite tons of hype and a nationwide expansion, The Master only tallied $9.6 million, and even with awards attention it will struggle to get past $20 million. The Cold Light of Day and Last Ounce of Courage were both pushed out in to over 1,500 locations, but earned just $3.7 million and $3.2 million, respectively. Finally, Won't Back Down scored the worst start ever in 2,500+ locations with $2.6 million.

Overall business for the third quarter (July-September) came in at $2.69 billion, which is off seven percent from 2011 and was also a tad lower than the same period in 2010.

After getting off to a stellar start in the first quarter, business has slowed significantly over the last six months. Year-to-date box office is at $8.1 billion, which remains up 3.5 percent on 2011 but is running about even with 2010. Still, with Taken 2, Paranormal Activity 4, Skyfall, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the way, the fourth quarter should be strong enough to make this a record-breaking year.

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• 'The Vow,' 'Safe House' Lead Record-Breaking February
• January 2012 Improves on Atrocious Start to 2011
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• Box Office Slows in October

Related Charts
September Calendar Grosses
• 2012 Grosses (2012-only releases)
• Year-to-Date Comparison

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New MPAA Ratings Added
DAILY: Monday, 6/17 (31 tracked)
WEEKEND: Weekend Actuals, 'Men in Black' #1
DAILY: Friday, 'Men in Black' #1
WEEKLY: 'Pets 2' Tops the Week with $68.2m
DAILY: Thursday 6/13, (44 tracked)
DAILY: Wednesday, 6/12 (29 tracked)
DAILY: Tuesday, 6/11 (36 tracked)