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WATCHMEN Tops Box Office

Lower expected numbers couldn't beat 300.

By Jarrod Sarafin     March 08, 2009

 

After months of trailers, news and anticipation from comic fans, Warner Bros. launched Zack Snyder’s Watchmen into theaters this weekend against a field where studios chose to stay out of the way and release no theatrical competition. There was no question that the film would win the box office report.
The real question was: “How much?”
Produced on a budget in the range of $125-150 million, we posed the question in last week’s report whether this film could take on Zack Snyder’s previous comic adaptation of 300, which was also released in the March season of 2007. Warner Bros. and Team Snyder likewise adapted the Frank Miller comic to great box office success on March 9, 2007, with a debut tally of $70.8 million on 3,103 theaters across the nation. Those kind of numbers make 300 the best March Opener of All-Time.
Could Watchmen repeat or top that success?
No.
Both comic adaptations may be R-rated big productions but there are some big differences which has King Leonidis still topping the Nite Owl’s team.
For one, the latter clocks in at nearly an hour over that of 300, with a screen time of 2 hours and 43 minutes. The reigning March champion was only a 1 hour and 57 minutes in length, which translates to more showings per day for the major distribution chains.
Second, while both appeal to the male audiences, 300 is a straight war film with MTV taglines like “Tonight, we dine in Hell”. Very easy to market to the 18-49 demographics ready for some popcorn fun at their local cinema. The executives at Warner Bros. couldn’t produce the same tags for an adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic, which was more political commentary speaking out against the very mindset of war.
And last, the box office profitability of both films. When it comes to those budget margins which is the #1 worry of executives within Hollywood, the two films sit on separate ends of the financial spectrum. Director Snyder kept the budget manageable for 300 at a price of only $65 million, which paved the way for some decent profits after a $456.0 million worldwide release. With Snyder hoping to fit as much of the comic into the film as he could, this latest comic adaptation has over twice that in budget costs and less screen showings per day.
Insiders were wondering whether Watchmen could become the #1 March Opener of All-Time with such a marketing campaign for it but there was just too much other factors working against it.
All of this isn’t to say that a $55.6 million opening debut of Watchmen is terrible. It’s just lower than expected. It means the executives will need a few more weeks before it’s a proven success. And with Warner Bros. having to share up to up to 8.5% of the box office with 20th Century Fox under the terms of a court settlement and already passing off foreign distribution to Paramount Pictures, the financial burdened pressure is on.
With Watchmen controlling the box office this weekend, the rest of the box office field enjoyed lower numbers while padding onto their total theatrical grosses. No other film hit the $10 million mark beyond the champion and the films in the 5th-10th place took in less than $5 mil each.
Following in 2nd place is Lionsgate’s latest Tyler Perry success story Madea Goes to Jail, which managed another $8.8 million in its third weekend of release. The latest numbers make it the best Perry effort to date by toppling 2006’s Madea’s Family Reunion ($63.2 mil) and also has it set up to hit the coveted $100 million mark within the next few weeks with steady box office.
 
20th Century Fox is likewise enjoying box office success with their Liam Neeson-led revenge thriller Taken continuing to perform excellent at the cinema. In its sixth weekend of release, the film still found the 3rd place spot with an estimated $7.4 million in sales. With the latest numbers in the bag, the film now has a successful domestic gross of  $118.0 million. If you include the $72.2 mil from its early foreign release, the film has a worldwide tally $190.3 million. It will likely hit the $200 worldwide mark by next weekend.
Fox Searchlight follows right behind its parent company’s release with Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which continues to perform steady numbers after sweeping the Academy Awards two weeks ago. In theaters for seventeen weeks, the film still managed to tack on another $6.9 million to its profitable box office grosses, which is currently at $125.4 million domestically. With $96.5 mil from foreign territories, the Oscar-winning production has a worldwide gross of $221.9 million. Great numbers for a film that cost only $15 mil to produce.
The 5th place spot goes to Sony Pictures’ comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The Kevin James-led effort pulled in another $4.2 million in its eighth weekend of release. The latest numbers has it currently sitting at a domestic gross of $133.6 mil. Like Slumdog, the film’s budget is listed low at just $26 million, which means this is most definitely a very profitable venture for Sony.
As said above, the bottom five all managed $4 mil or less. The most noteworthy of the groups is the staggering drop off of Disney’s Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. After a lackluster debut last weekend, the film found itself dropping 77.7% by pulling in only another $2.7 million this weekend in 9th place.
 

Rank
Movie
Weekend
Theaters
Average
Total
Budget
1
Watchmen
$55.6 mil
3,611
$15,413
$55.6 mil
$150
2
Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail
$8.8 mil
2,151
$4,091
$76.5 mil
----
3
Taken
$7.4 mil
3,016
$2,470
$118.0 mil
----
4
Slumdog Millionaire
$6.9 mil
2,890
$2,396
$125.4 mil
$15
5
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
$4.2 mil
2,558
$1,642
$133.6 mil
$26
6
He’s Just Not That Into You
$4.0 mil
2,445
$1,644
$84.6 mil
----
7
Coraline
$3.3 mil
1,959
$1,691
$65.6 mil
-----
8
Confessions of a Shopaholic
$3.1 mil
2,290
$1,363
$38.3 mil
----
9
Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert
$2.7 mil
1,276
$2,183
$16.7 mil
----
10
Fired Up
$2.6 mil
1,798
$1,446
$13.3 mil
$20

 
 
Watchmen had a clear field this weekend with no competition in its debut. The same can’t be said for its second weekend which has a horror remake, a comedy and a Disney family adventure. Unless a staggering drop off occurs between now and next Sunday, the comic adaptation should be once again #1 of next weekend’s box office report.
But families will have Race to Witch Mountain hitting 3,000+ theaters so that likely has a chance of taking a lot of the box office pie.
The 18-49 audience will also have The Last House on the Left, a remake of the 70’s cult classic, hitting 2,300+ theaters as well.
 
Friday March 13, 2009 Releases:
Wide
Race to Witch Mountain (3,000+ theaters)
The Last House on the Left (2,300+ theaters)
Miss March (1,700 theaters)
Limited
Sunshine Cleaning
Severed Ways
Brothers at War
Tokyo Sonata

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 44
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Wiseguy 3/8/2009 2:23:43 PM

1-I haven't seen that much dick since C.Bale in TDK. Someone had to say it.

2-The film is an excellent adaptation of a good comic. But it just shows that all the hype, although very loud, isn't the concensus with most.

3-Jarrod, stop makjing excuses. The film had everything going for it. The hype was just as big as TDK's, even though nobody died. It had no competition. The film was only slightly longer than TDK. It had the widest ever opening for an R film and even the studio expected it to rival 300. I said before I didn't think it would break many records outside of the widest R release but it should make a nice profit even if it dives from here on out, which I hope it doesn't.

4-300 had it in the surreal feel and look of the film. That film was like a moving work of art with stylized violence. While Watchmen was very realistic and I know the violence turned some people off.

5-I give the film an A-. It could've been slightly better maybe but not much. I recommend at least a second viewing. I know I usually enjoy a film more the 2nd time around and that was the case here.

6-Snyder is still the man and now I can't wait to see his next live action film (he has an animated one next) Suckerpunch, which sounds like it will be a real blast with lots of eye candy.


7-Last but not least, I am tired of snobs saying anyone that didn't like "just wasn't smart enough to understand it" or didn't get the whole paranoia that was so prevelant during the Cold War. Or making blanket statements like the entire genre has to be like this because of TDK and Watchmen, dark, gritty and somber. To the latter I say I like the style but I still want my Spidey or FF to have some liught humor and not take themselves too serious to the point where they're no longer fun and to the former, get off it please. You don't need to be a mensa member to get it, some people just have different taste and didn't buy into the hype

JarrodSarafin 3/8/2009 2:29:21 PM

It wasn't so much excuses, Wiseguy, as the differences between the two Snyder films. I agree that it didn't perform the numbers that was expected and I didn't think it would which is I posed the question in last weekend's report.

For me, it had little chance of repeating what 300 did.

Hobbs 3/8/2009 3:12:05 PM

Damn!!!  All the comments are gone from every article. lol

Where's the love? I was hoping to get a midnight meat train DVD since my projection of 55-60 mil was accurate.

Seriously though, for a 3 hour rated R superhero flick that isn't really a superhero flick those numbers are damn good.

With all the dialogue in this movie it's not going to translate well overseas. You might get 100 mil out of it and you have to give Fox credit. They played WB very well getting 8% of the income.

The 2nd weekend is going to decide this one. If it drops over 50% it will probably top out around 130 mil. In my surroundings everyone hated this movie so I have to wonder if its going to have a good word of mouth?
 

Hobbs 3/8/2009 3:15:26 PM

hanso, I'm starting to think you have a mancrush on Dr. Manhattan's blue pipi.  LOL!!

almostunbiased 3/8/2009 3:30:38 PM

I talked to four people this weekend that saw Watchman.  They all said it was the worst movie they have ever seen, and that I should just watch the trailer, because it was more entertaining than the whole movie.  Though I'll still see it sometime, that did scare me off for this weekend.  That and the split critics, which most who liked it simply say how great it looks.

RaithManan 3/8/2009 3:55:45 PM

After seeing Watchmen, a really good movie tale of the comic adaptation.  But I think Alan Moore's constant bitching may have been the reason why Snyder tried TOO HARD to please its creator and the film, while despite its ambitious vision, was just too overblown and really dragged the movie down in a snail-like pace.  The opening sequence and credits were well done if not very imaginative.  While the typical comic fan will obviously understand Watchmen, those who weren't familiar with it will look at it and think "WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING?"  And that I feel is the biggest thing against Watchmen.

And for the parents who complained Dark Knight was too violent (TOO BAD FOR YOU IF YOU STILL HAVEN'T FULLY GRASPED THE CONCEPT OF WHY BATMAN IS SUPPOSE TO BE THE WAY IT IS), you're gonna be in for a rude awakening as Watchmen makes the violence in Dark Knight look like a tame saturday morning cartoon.  Watchmen is not the norm of superhero films and is very mature, which may ultimately determine who well it does from here or how fast it dies at the box office.  Always remember, the first week is always curiousity factor, the following weeks is how much interest it keeps.  Look at Taken, which is constantly been in the top 5 for 6 weeks sliding up and down with each passing week.  Then look how fast Friday the 13th died after raking in over $40 mil in the first week. 

Watchmen has great performances, particularly Jackie Earle Haley, who audiences clearly loved throughout the movie as Rorsarch.  But when the focus wasn't on him, the audience I watched it with was grumbling when it dragged, unless it was Nite Owl or Comedian on the screen to maintain their interest.  Plus it was also to some degree unintentionally funny at some parts, mostly when it came to Nixon scenes as people were constatnly laughing on how the makeup job was.   Perhaps had they thought about it and got Frank Langella, who looked and acted like Nixon much more convincingly in Frost vs. Nixon, the audience may not have laughed so hard.

For all its efforts, Watchmen while still solid, tried to cram EVERYTHING in, but again probably to please the crybaby Alan Moore, who really should be grateful to Snyder for respecting and understanding the material just because his previous works League of Extordinary Gentlemen and From Hell were not up to snuff in translation.  However V for Vendetta was really good so 2 out of 4 isn't bad.  But trying to cram nearly every bit of detail was the reason why some thought Harry Potter's first outing was WAY TOO long-winded for its own good because it bogged most of the film down, while Lord of the Rings worked because its pacing was so much better.

I applaud Snyder (who I like to see WB give him a crack at Superman quite honestly) for another solid comic adaptation to please fans.  But also feel sorry for him in the same breath for trying to make even the most skeptical happy for his hard work.  Alan Moore you may not like it, but atleast give the man an A-for effort and shut up.

 

RaithManan 3/8/2009 4:01:28 PM

Hanzo, Hobbs, are you two on the joyjuice again?

hanso 3/8/2009 4:05:49 PM

Jarrod quit playin with me son, where have all the comments gone?

Wiseguy talkin tough, he lookin for Bale to pop up and give him a dose of his specialty, the verbal abuse, buwahhaha.  Don't let him Wise, don't!

Snyder is genius for changing the ending.  Who really is afraid of a Squid?  That's right no one.  Now the fear of being attacked by Dr.Manhattan's blue pipi, now that is truly scary and capabable of keeping everyone in check.  Fear the blue pipi!

 

agentkooper 3/8/2009 4:10:18 PM

Hanso -

What if it was a giant squid?  What if it was an even gianter squid looking for its giant squid baby?  What if it's the made for TV movie Peter Benchley's The Beast?  Because seeing that movie again scares the shit out of me.

Wiseguy 3/8/2009 4:16:29 PM

DST is playing havoc with this site's server. Shit is acting up all over the spot

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