Credit: Alan Markfield

For the past few weeks, it seems like every box office preview has started off with some iteration of the following: "After last weekend's dismal results, the box office will get a much-needed boost over the next few days."

And then it doesn't.

Film after film has underperformed this September. No one bothered to read The Words. Audiences dreaded seeing Dredd. And Trouble with the Curve swung and missed. But, for some misguidedly optimistic reason, I'm holding out hope that this weekend the box office really will get that much-needed boost.

The well-reviewed time-bending thriller Looper hits theaters this weekend and will likely do solid business, but it will almost certainly yield to animated pic Hotel Transylvania, which is set to win the weekend. One other wide release, teaching drama Won't Back Down, is also entering theaters, but it's expected to fizzle almost immediately.

Here's how the box office might shake out over the next three days:

1. Hotel Transylvania – $30 million

Following the back-to-back misfires Jack and Jill and That's My Boy, which grossed just $74.2 million and $36.9 million respectively, the once-untouchable Adam Sandler is in dire need of a box office comeback. This spooky Sony animation should give him just that. The $85 million film, about a hotel for archetypal monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula, should play well with young kids and their families — especially as we approach Halloween. Sony Pictures Animation, which launched in 2006 with Open Season ($85.1 million domestically) and found success with 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($124.9 million), will release the film in 3,349 theaters.

Finding Nemo and ParaNorman have been out long enough that they shouldn't pose too much competition (side note: there does seem to be a glut of creepy-kiddie animations, lately — Frankenweenie is up next), so Hotel may open in the same range as Cloudy, which bowed to $30.3 million. A $30 million frame would set the picture up nicely for a lucrative October run.

2. Looper – $21 million

Moviegoers eager for an original action movie will be happy to see Rian Johnson's time-travel assassin tale Looper this weekend. The film, which stars Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the older and younger versions of the same man, will open in 2,992 theaters. Distributor TriStar, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures, acquired U.S. rights to Looper, which was made for approximately $35 million.

Star Joseph Gordon-Levitt certainly earned fans in high-concept action movies like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, but the box office failure of Premium Rush proved his leading man drawing power might not be premium at all. Alongside a stalwart star like Bruce Willis, the young actor should fare better — especially since reviews for Looper have been strong and Sony has marketed the film aggressively. Though the studio is expecting an opening in the high teens, I think moviegoers starved for fresh, quality content may lift Looper's box office substantially higher. The film should fare better than time travel adventures In Time and Source Code, which started with $12.0 million and $14.8 million, respectively, and it may finish right in the same range as The Adjustment Bureau, which bowed to $21.2 million last year.

3. End of Watch – $8.5 million

Last weekend's chart-topper should benefit from strong reviews and excellent word of mouth. The cop drama may drop by about 35 percent to $8.5 million, which would give it a ten day total of nearly $27 million.

4. Trouble with the Curve – $7.5 million

Clint Eastwood's baseball effort didn't hit a home run last weekend, but due to the star's loyal older audience, it may hold up nicely in its second frame. A 40 percent drop would give Trouble a $7.5 million weekend and about $23.5 million total.

5. House at the End of the Street – $5.5 million

With wretched reviews, a young target audience, and the inherent frontloadedness of horror movies, House will likely tumble by about 55 percent in its sophomore weekend to $5.5 million, which will bring its total to about $21 million.

Further down the chart, the Maggie Gyllenhaal/Viola Davis vehicle Won't Back Down will likely only debut to about $4 million from 2,515 theaters. The Fox teaching drama cost a reported $19 million to make. Universal will also debut their gleeful a cappella movie Pitch Perfect in 336 theaters this weekend — a rare move for a broadly appealing comedy. The film will move into wide release on Oct. 5. Lionsgate will also expand Perks of Being a Wallflower from 4 to 102 theaters.

Check back to EW all weekend long for full box office coverage, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office results as they pour in on Saturday and Sunday morning.

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