Wednesday October 3, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- Adam Sandler's monster mash-up "Hotel Transylvania" has brought the weekend box office back to life after a late-summer slump.

The animated comedy from Sony Pictures debuted at No. 1 with $43 million, one of the strongest starts ever for a movie opening in September.

"Hotel Transylvania" set a new high for September debuts in terms of actual dollars, beating the previous re cord of $35.7 million for 2002's "Sweet Home Alabama." But factoring in today's higher admission prices, "Sweet Home Ala bama" sold more tickets.

This weekend's box office was further strengthened by a solid No. 2 debut for another Sony release, Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's time-travel thriller "Looper," which took in $21.2 million.

Hollywood's overall grosses rose for the first time in a month compared to the same weekend last year. Revenues totaled $120 million, up 21 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when "Dolphin Tale" led with $13.9 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

"Sony really kind of saved the day here, turning things around after a full month of less-than-stellar box office," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "The post-summer period didn't exactly set the world on fire."

It's rare for one studio to open two wide releases over the same weekend, but Sony had two movies that complemented each other well without overlapping their audiences.

Locking up the family crowds, the PG-rated "Hotel Transylvania" features Sandler providing the voice of Count Dracula as the proprietor of a resort catering to Franken stein, the Wolfman and other monsters.

The R-rated "Looper" pulled in male action fans. Set in 2044, the film stars Gordon-Levitt as a hit man assigned to kill victims sent back in time -- including his future self (Bruce Willis).

Playing in 335 theaters, Universal Pictures' music tale "Pitch Perfect" opened strongly at No. 6 with $5.2 million. The movie stars Anna Kendrick as a college freshman who joins an a cappella singing team and livens up the group's conservative style.

The weekend's other new wide release, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis' school drama "Won't Back Down," flopped at No. 10 with $2.7 million. The movie centers on two mothers who organize a campaign to save a failing elementary school.