The record-breaking $47 million box office debut of "Hotel Transylvania 2" is the biggest stride yet in suddenly sizzling Sony Pictures' rebound from last fall's catastrophic cyber disaster, and the best could still be ahead.
The No. 1 opening for the Sony Animation release -- a Genndy Tartakovsky-directed monster mashup voiced by Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James and Mel Brooks -- marks the third weekend in the last four that the top spot at the box office has been claimed by a Sony specialty label. Affirm Films' prayer-pumping "War Room" connected with Christians and Screen Gems' thriller "The Perfect Guy" broke out when it appealed beyond its target African-American audience.
After a bummer summer, the studio is positioned to end the year with a bang. The Robert Zemeckis-directed high wire tale "The Walk," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, opens a giant-screen run Wednesday, followed by the Jack Black comedy "Goosebumps" on Oct. 16 and the 24th Bond film, "Spectre," on Nov. 6. Sony then closes out what could be a great last third of the year with Jonathan Levine comedy "The Night Before," starring Seth Rogen and Gordon-Levitt, in late November, and the Will Smith NFL injury drama "Concussion" on Dec. 25.
"That's a quite a turnaround," BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap Monday, "especially when you consider the summer they had." The studio's only two releases, Meryl Streep's "Rikki and the Flash" and video-game fantasy "Pixels" both disappointed.
The films that started the streak were both financial coups for Sony. "War Room" cost $3.5 million and has taken in $56 million at the box office. The $12 million "The Perfect Guy" is up to $49 million after three weeks. But the $80 million "Hotel Transylvania 2" was a much bigger win.
"Hotel Transylvania 2" should be collecting for more than a month, because "Peanuts" is the next kids film and it doesn't arrive until November. In addition to the domestic haul -- the largest opening ever in September -- "Hotel Transylvania 2" added $29 million from abroad.
But the benefits for Sony go far beyond the box office bounty, and here's why:
Deals were still being sealed with director Tartakovsky and the rest of the Drac pack on Monday, but you can bet franchise-starved Sony will be checking back in at "Hotel Transylvania." The resort-for-monsters concept is ideal for building out and this could turn into a high-end property. The sequel's first weekend overseas far outstripped that of the original, which made $358 million globally, and was in the same realm with that of heavyweight sequels including "Monsters University," "Rio 2" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2."
Leadership Is Delivering
The wins are a clear signal to rival studios -- and more importantly to the hack-whacked collective psyche of Sony's 6,000 employees -- that the newcomers assembled by SPE chairman Tom Rothman (worldwide marketing and distribution chief Josh Greenstein, Sony Animation president Kristine Belson and international film and TV guru Sanford Panitch) have melded with the existing brass and become a cohesive unit. They should be a force to be reckoned going forward.
Success Greases Deal Wheels
Adam Sandler and Kevin James have delivered repeatedly for Sony, and rarely are modern stars so associated with a single studio as this duo. The "Hotel Transylvania 2" triumph should counteract their "Pixels" pratfall, psychologically if not financially. Andy Samberg is a rising star whom Sony has worked with before, and the studio would love to have him in its lineup more often. That goes for Selena Gomez, too. There's nothing like a big win to make the possibilities look brighter when it comes time to make deals and pick up projects.
Momentum Matters, Especially Now
The studio's next three releases are critical. Tightrope thriller "The Walk" will be up against the second week of Fox's "The Martian" when it goes wide on Oct. 9, but the strong reviews out of the New York Film Festival and an IMAX and Premium Large Format run starting Wednesday give it a shot at keeping the streak alive. "Goosebumps," the Jack Black adventure comedy based on R.L. Stine's anthology, has got its work cut out for it against Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks thriller "Bridge of Spies" the following week. But even a strong second-place showing could launch another franchise. "Spectre," the final Bond film that Sony will distribute under its deal with MGM and Eon Productions, arrives on Nov.6 and all indicators are strong.
Lean, Mean and Set Up
Last year, when Universal Pictures was forced by the death of Paul Walker to postpone the releases of "Furious 7" and the not-ready "Minions," it was left without a tentpole and very short on franchises. Forced to scramble with good movies that weren't epics --think "Lone Survivor," "Ride Along" and "Ouija" -- the film unit found ways to win. This year, when they really had the goods, the marketing prowess and teamwork they developed last year paid off with interest and the studio has made Hollywood history. Sony won't match Universal's 2015 success, but the benefits of this current winning streak -- however long it goes -- will be felt well into 2016.