Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Top Box Office Earners for September 2012

September is always a busy month in the movie industry, as the Toronto Film Festival and other movie showcases around the globe begin to introduce the big fall films that will likely compete for awards. Most studios release at least a few family-friendly films and the last of their comedies for the year before they begin releasing more dramatic fare as winter nears. A close look at the box office results for September 2012 shows a healthy mix of family films, comedies and even a few award contenders.

The number one earner in September was "Hotel Transylvania," an animated comedy featuring the voice of Adam Sandler as Dracula, who operates a resort for ghosts, ghouls and goblins in a realm separate from humans. Andy Samberg plays a teenage boy who stumbles upon the resort and quickly falls for Dracula's daughter, played by Selena Gomez. The overprotective vampire father does his best to discourage the relationship, resulting in plenty of hilarious moments.

The film earned over $42 million in the domestic market during its opening weekend, adding an additional $29 million overseas. It was far and away the biggest earner of the month, even though it was released on September 28, giving it only one weekend to top the tallies of films that had been released earlier in the month. Remarkably, it also earned more than "Resident Evil: Retribution," which came out a full two weeks earlier.

In second place, with only half the box office receipts of "Hotel Transylvania," was the sci-fi thriller "Looper" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, a mob assassin who is sent to kill old Joe (Bruce Willis), his future self. Though "Looper" opened with just under $21 million on the same weekend as Sandler's film, it is considered a strong take. The movie has garnered excellent reviews and has yet to open overseas, which means its ultimate box office numbers could increase substantially.

There was only one sequel, "Resident Evil: Retribution," that cracked the top earners for September. The fifth installment into the franchise, based on the popular video game series, it earned a total of just over $41 million, after banking $21 million during its opening weekend starting September 14. The film brings back Milla Jovovich as Alice, an ex-employee of the Umbrella Corporation, which unleashed a zombie plague on the world. Instead of taking aim at the undead who are trying to destroy the living, she goes after Umbrella Corporation executives who spread the virus in the first place.

In fourth place was the Disney rerelease of the popular 2003 film "Finding Nemo." This latest version is in 3D, which greatly increases the price paid per ticket. It launched the same weekend as "Resident Evil: Retribution," offering a much more appropriate film for younger moviegoers. It hauled in over $16 million, with a total take of $39 million over the remaining two weeks of the month. It stars the voice of Al Brooks as Marlin, a clownfish who teams with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) to try to find his only son after he goes missing.

Rounding out the top five films is "End of Watch," a gritty cop thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as Los Angeles police officers who stumble upon a myriad of cases including Mexican cartels, human trafficking, murders, domestic abuse, and more. The film has received very favorable reviews and is rumored to be a contender once the awards show season begins in earnest. It notched $13 million for its opening weekend, which began September 14 in a somewhat limited release. It was released to a much larger set of markets in subsequent days, leading to an overall tally of $34 million and counting.

Another big awards show contender is the Paul Thomas Anderson drama " The Master," which was only released on five screens when it initially opened on September 14. Despite the limited number of theaters, it managed to pull in $13 million during September, giving it a very strong per-screen average. This bodes well for the film, which has people whispering about Academy Award nominations for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

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