Adam Sandler's monster mash-up Hotel Transylvania has brought the weekend box office back to life after a late-season slump.
The animated comedy from Sony Pictures debuted at No. 1 with $US43 million ($A41.36 million), one of the strongest starts ever for a movie opening in September, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
Hotel Transylvania set a new high for September debuts in terms of actual dollars, beating the previous record of $US35.7 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 $US21.2 million.
Hollywood's overall grosses rose for the first time in a month compared to the same weekend last year. Revenues totalled $US120 million, up 21 per cent from the same weekend a year ago, when Dolphin Tale led with $US13.9 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 the 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).
In narrower release, Universal Pictures' music tale Pitch Perfect opened strongly at No. 6 with $US5.2 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 theatres, Pitch Perfect averaged an impressive $US15,560 a cinema. That compared to an average of $US12,840 in 3,349 theatres for Hotel Transylvania and $US7,086 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 $US2.7 million, averaging just $US1,074 in 2,515 theatres.
The movie centres on two mothers who organise a campaign to save a failing primary 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.