Analysis: The critics loved the other two comic monster kids films, but audiences have made "Hotel Transylvania" the Halloween hit at the box office
"Hotel Transylvania" and its comic ghoulies won the battle of animated Halloween kids movies three weeks ago, and it's still taking victory laps. “Hotel Transylvania” delivered the best September opening in box office history at $42 million, and this past weekend it made an estimated $13.5 million, hiking its overall domestic gross to $119 million.
Its success was hardly a given as one of three animated kids’ comedy horror films — "ParaNorman" and "Frankenweenie" are the others — that arrived at the box office in time for Halloween this year, and the one with the weakest reviews.
"Hotel Transylvania" rated 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 89% for "Frankenweenie" and 86% for "ParaNorman."
"ParaNorman," has taken in a respectable $91 million worldwide thus far, but "Frankenweenie" has taken in just $40 million so far.
The startling part of "Hotel Transylvania" is its staying power. The movie dropped just 36 percent in both the second and third weeks, and this week it was off just 21 percent. It’s even winning overseas, taking in another $14.5 million this week to raise its foreign haul to $68.3 million.
A healthy $187 million worldwide box office, and one that is still growing, is not bad for a film that cost Sony Pictures Animation around $85 million to produce.
“‘Hotel Transylvania’ is performing beyond anyone's imagination, and the holds are ridiculous," Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer. "It exceeds expectations in every new market it opens in."
The studio isn't saying, but it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a sequel.
While “Hotel Transylvania” has become an unlikely hit, the Focus Features-distributed “ParaNorman” hasn't done as well as the previous film from Laika Entertainment, "Coraline." The critics loved its dark and semi-scary tone, but since opening on August 17, "ParaNorman" has brought in $55 million domestically and $91 million worldwide. Its budget was unavailable.
Disney and Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” has turned into a bit of a box-office pumpkin, despite being a critical favorite. Burton's had some big hits but he's had some misses, too. With its $39 million budget, "Frankenweenie" was always going to be more "Corpse Bride" than "Alice in Wonderland," and the $28 million in box office since opening on Oct. 5 ($40 million worldwide) bears that out.
Of the three films, “Hotel Transylvania” had the weakest reviews, but that hasn’t hurt it at the box office. Its style charmed some critics. TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde called it “the kind of film that many will dismiss as being ‘merely’ entertaining, and even if it isn’t as creepy as ‘ParaNorman’ or as original as 'The Nightmare Before Christmas,' it’s a boisterous joyride from start to finish.”
Audiences have agreed: The 3D cartoon earned an “A-” CinemaScore overall, and an “A” from females and kids under the age of 18.
While the two rival stop-action films may have initially looked a little hipper, director Genndy Tartakovsky (with Adam Sandler at the Toronto premiere, left) infused his first feature with a traditional but distinctive CGI style in 3D. A Russian immigrant, Tartakovsky learned English through cartoons like “Tex Avery” and “Popeye,” and he pays homage to both throughout “Hotel."
Tartakovsky is a 13-time Emmy nominee and three-time winner for helping create shows including “Dexter’s Lab,” “Samurai Jack” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars.” That the film would be seen as a directorial triumph is another upset; in the six years since it went into development, no less than five other directors had the helm at one point. Michelle Murdocca produced, and the executive producers are Sandler and Robert Smigel, who wrote the screenplay with Peter Baynham.
“When it comes to kids movies,” Phil Contrino, editor in chief at Boxoffice.com told TheWrap, “you have to sell the parents first, and this one did a very good job of that.”
Sony stalwarts Sandler, who voices Dracula in the film, and Kevin James, who does Frankenstein, may have helped with that. It marks a nice rebound for Sandler, whose foray into R-rated comedy, “That’s My Boy,” flamed out this summer. His co-star in “That’s My Boy,” Andy Samberg, voices Jonathan, the young mortal who dares to woo the Count’s daughter (Selena Gomez) in “Hotel Transylvania.”
The rest of the voice cast includes some familiar folks: Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Molly Shannon and Jon Lovitz.
Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap that the reason for "Translyvania's" success may be "that it's totally non-threatening. Or maybe it's just fun for kids."
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