North American box office: everyone’s watching the ‘Watchmen’

Shocking news! Comic book movie dominates at the box office:

1. Watchmen: $55.2 million (NEW)
2. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail: $8.5 million (3rd week; drops 47%)
3. Taken: $7.3 million
4. Slumdog Millionaire: $6.8 million
5. Paul Blart: Mall Cop: $4.1 million

actual numbers, not estimates
Watchmen is down a bit from the early estimate of $55.7 million, and as I predicted, this lowish number — for what was expected to be a blockbuster — is being spun in all sorts of ways. It’s a flop! No it isn’t! (For an excellent wrapup of the bizarre coverage the film’s performance is getting, see Patrick Goldstein at the L.A. Times.)

Overall business was up nine percent over the same weekend last year, but that didn’t help the Jonas Brothers, whose 3D Concert Experience dropped an embarrassing 77 percent in its second week. But it seems to be continuing to help Paul Blart, which popped back up into the top 5 in its eighth week, and has now earned almost $134 million. (It cost $26 million to produce.) Slumdog Millionaire passed $125 million this weekend — it cost $15 million to make. Madea passed $75 million — no word yet on its production costs, but they’re likely very low. I know I’ve said some disparaging things about Tyler Perry as an artist, but ya gotta respect him as a businessman: He makes movies outside the Hollywood system that people want to see. I congratulate him on that, at least.

The best per-screen of the weekend went to Tokyo!, playing in one theater, where it earned $23,460. Watchmen was a distant second at $15,291 at each of 3,611 locations (and getting a bit of a boost thanks to the premium prices at the 124 IMAX theaters it played at). The only other five-digit per-screen went to Fados, also on one screen, with $10,823.

Next week will be the real moment of truth for Watchmen. Will it drop precipitously, or hang strong? That’ll be the first real indication we get of what its long-term performance will be. And after that will come another set of strained analysis over whether the blockbuster is dead, or just comic books, or simply Zack Snyder.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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