By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Family film "Hotel Transylvania" brought new life to movie box offices with a chart-topping $43 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales during the weekend, a record for a September opening.
The animated 3-D movie featuring the voices of Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez finished ahead of new science fiction film "Looper," which took in $21.2 million from Friday through Sunday.
The police drama "End of Watch," which tied with "House at the End of the Street" for the top spot last week, landed in third place with $8 million, according to studio estimates.
The big turnout for the top films helped revive a box office that has struggled through several weeks of sluggish attendance.
In "Hotel Transylvania," Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and other monsters gather for a party at a high-end resort operated by Dracula. Their celebration is disrupted when a boy discovers the hotel and falls in love with Dracula's daughter but must deal her overprotective father.
The film's domestic sales far exceeded distributor Sony Corp's prediction for $25 million-plus from the North American (U.S. and Canadian) market. The movie added $8.1 million from international markets, for a global debut of $51.1 million.
"It's absolutely an incredible result," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Corp's Sony Pictures studio, adding that the studio had hoped for something in the $30 million range, which he noted "in this market would have been extraordinary."
The hefty take easily beat the September opening record of $35.65 million for "Sweet Home Alabama," which had stood for 10 years.
"Hotel Transylvania" cost $85 million to produce.
Sony also distributed second-place film "Looper," a time travel story about a man charged with killing an older version of himself. The movie starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt earned rave reviews from critics with a 93 percent positive rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
Sony had predicted ticket sales of up to $20 million domestically for "Looper." Endgame Entertainment paid for the film's production.
"To see it open as it did bodes well for how well this movie will play in the future," said Bruer.
Looper, a Chinese co-production, performed especially well in China, where the take was on par with, and could exceed, even the U.S. total, Endgame's chief executive James Stern said.
"We don't have the final box office tally" due to a national holiday in China, but the numbers are pointing toward "the very first time in history that China would be world's leading market for an international film," said Stern.
The weekend's other new movie, "Won't Back Down," stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal as two determined mothers who try to transform their children's failing inner city school. The film started off with $2.7 million over the weekend, in 10th place.
Rounding out the top five, Clint Eastwood baseball film "Trouble with the Curve" scored $7.5 million to take the No. 4 slot, while horror flick "House at the End of the Street" earned $7.2 million during its second weekend in theaters.
New comedy "Pitch Perfect," about a girls' singing group, pulled in an impressive $5.2 million in a limited debut on 335 screens for the sixth spot. Distributor Universal Studios chose a smaller opening in hopes of generating buzz ahead of a wider release on October 5.
Sony Corp's movie studio released "Hotel Transylvania" and "Looper." "Won't Back Down" was distributed by News Corp's 20th Century Fox studio and produced by Walden Media.
"End of Watch" was released by Open Road Films, a joint venture between owners Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc. Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. distributed "Trouble With the Curve."
Comcast Corp's Universal Studios released "Pitch Perfect." "Trouble with the Curve" was distributed by Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. unit.
(Additional reporting by Chris Michaud)