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, according to studio estimates Sunday.
"Hotel Transylvania" set a new high for September debuts in terms of actual dollars, beating the previous record of $35.7 million for 2002's "Sweet Home Alabama." But factoring in today's higher admission prices, "Sweet Home Alabama" 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 proprietor of a resort catering to Frankenstein, 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).
The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Open Road Films' police story "End of Watch," fell to No. 3 with $8 million, raising its domestic total to $26.2 million.
In narrower release, 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.
Playing in 335 theaters, "Pitch Perfect" averaged an impressive $15,560 a cinema. That compared to an average of $12,840 in 3,349 theaters for "Hotel Transylvania" and $7,086 in 2,992 cinemas for "Looper."
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, averaging just $1,074 in 2,515 theaters. The movie centers on two mothers who organize a campaign to save a failing elementary school.
For Sandler, "Hotel "Transylvania" was a return to hit status after his summer dud "That's My Boy" and so-so results on last year's comedy "Jack and Jill."
Sandler's audience of young males generally has waned as he ages. But Sony, which has released most of his movies, remains eager to stay in the Sandler business.
"I have said that many times, and it still holds in a big way," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Hotel Transylvania," $43 million ($8.1 million international).
2. "Looper," $21.2 million ($8.5 million international).
3. "End of Watch," $8 million.
4. "Trouble with the Curve," $7.5 million.
5. "House at the End of the Street," $7.2 million ($1.5 million international).
6. "Pitch Perfect," $5.2 million.
7. "Finding Nemo," $4.1 million ($1.1 million international).
8. "Resident Evil: Retribution," $3 million ($20.7 million international).
9. "The Master," $2.75 million.
10. "Won't Back Down," $2.7 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "Resident Evil: Retribution," $20.7 million.
2. "Ted," $9.1 million.
3 (tie). "Masquerade," $9 million.
3 (tie). "Les Seigneurs," $9 million.
5. "Ice Age: Continental Drift," $8.7 million.
6. "Looper," $8.5 million.
7. "Hotel Transylvania," $8.1 million.
8. "The Bourne Legacy," $7.7 million.
9. "Taken 2," $6.4 million.
10. "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," $6.1 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.