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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Watchmen’’s opening weekend: $55.7 million (estimated)

The weekend estimates are in, and it looks as if the chatter around Watchmen’s performance is going to go negative. With a weekend take of $55.7 million (that may change slightly when the final numbers come in later), the handwringing and questioning analysis and careful couching has already begun. “‘Watchmen’ falls short of expected box office take” headlines this Reuters article:

But pundits had expected an opening in the $60 million-plus range, and the tally was considerably lower than the $71 million start two years ago for “300,” the previous film from “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder. The ancient battle epic holds the record for a March opening. “Watchmen” ranks at No. 3.

The Watchmen opening is $100 million less than The Dark Knight’s last summer, and almost half the $102 million I had guessed.

And the indulging in comic-book caricatures is in full swing, too. The L.A. Times couldn’t resist resorting to stereotypes right off the bat in its story on the early box office results:

Dressed in skinny black jeans and rocker T-Shirts, teenagers Raven McGee and Charles Valencia were perusing comic books at a store in Glendale, capping what the two friends considered a perfect Saturday after seeing the superhero blockbuster “Watchmen.”

So-called fanboys of the genre, such as McGee and Valencia, helped propel the action film’s weekend box-office domination with estimated ticket sales of $55.7 million, the biggest opening of any film this year.

“If you loved the comic book, you’ll love the movie,” said Valencia, 16, of the film released by Warner Bros. and partners Paramount Pictures and Legendary Pictures.

The Reuters article linked above includes this info: “Male moviegoers accounted for about two-thirds of the audience, with the ‘sweet spot’ aged between 17 and 35…” Which means that one-third of the audience was female, and a significant percentage of the audience would have been men who weren’t teenagers. Imagine if the Times piece has started like this?

Dressed in business suits with loosened ties, thirtysomething job-hunters Mark Wilson and Jose Ramirez were chatting excitedly as they exited a Glendale multiplex early Friday evening, capping what the two friends considered the perfect respite from their own troubles: a viewing of the superhero blockbuster “Watchmen.”

“I loved the comic book as a teenager,” said Wilson, 34, “And it’s just as relevant today.” Ramirez, 32, laughed at that, and said: “It was great to be reminded that as bad as things are today, at least we’re not worried about nuclear war anymore.”

But that would have taken a bit of effort. Instead the Times took the easy way out: it went to a comic book store to find Watchmen fans. That’s some in-depth investigative journalism right there.

(I’ll cover the weekend box office, as I usually do, after the actual numbers are released late this afternoon.)



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  • A friend of mine told me that when he saw the movie there were some guys dressed up like Rorschach … just like RHPS, I think it’s wonderful but can’t go very well at the box-office.
    Here in Italy is in first position, but didn’t go very well either.

  • amanohyo

    Wait, wait, so the L.A. Times chose not one, but two 16 year old boys to represent the audience of a rated R movie based on a graphic novel that peaked in popularity years before they were born?

    That is kinda weird. Did they also interview two six year old kids they found wandering through Toys R Us about the Michael Bay Transformers movie? After all, almost two thirds of that movie’s audience was made up of men aged between 8 and 45.

  • drew ryce

    The article is poor on so many levels.

    First, the premise: that Watchers has underperformed.
    Underperformed according to who?

    Allan Horn, the studio Lord High Mucky-Muck and Grand Poobah, addressed a substantial industry group in Palm Springs the week before the opening and said he was looking for ‘around $60M’ opening weekend. Horn would have had access to the studio internal predicts so the movie did as well as the studio thought it would.

    Second, the comparison: Watchmen didn’t do as well as Dark Knight.

    Watchmen was an R rated opening in March. Dark Knight was a fabulously successful summer PG. They aren’t even remotely comparable and that isn’t how industry professional do their comparisons. You always compare apples to apples. (More people watch TV at 8PM than at 11PM. You always compare shows in the same timeslot e.g. SNL isn’t a failure because it didn’t outdraw American Idol.)

    300 was a March R and Watchmen didn’t do as well as 300. True. But 300 was the most successful March opening R in history. Is Watchmen to be deemed a failure because it is “only” the second biggest R opening in March in history?

    In fact it is probably one of the biggest March openings in history. I haven’t looked it up but, excepting 300, I can’t remember a March opening this big since Ice Age and Ice Age was a G.

  • Sara

    Seems to me (as noted above) that for a March movie, (no “summer” blockbuster) and a movie that was known ahead not to be total and complete non-stop action (those movies, especially if rated PG-13 seem to gross the most)—that The Watchmen did well. The negative articles were unfortunate and, as those above mentioned…based on what exactly? The movie has developed characters, is not one speed fits all and is an adult movie. It’s also not a mainstream “comic”–even though a popular graphic novel. The lower box office numbers might point to a better movie than many that get higher numbers, actually.

  • It’s also worth pointing out that Watchmen appears to be doing well overseas, too. It’s total worldwide take so far is $86 million, which is definitely putting it on track to make a profit.

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