‘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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