March 9, 2009
So, when an R-rated comic book movie that runs more than two-and-a-half hours and stars no stars, much less Batman or spider-man, opens with an estimated $55.7 million, that's good, right?
Watchmen's Friday-Sunday debut was the weekend's biggest, the year's biggest and the sixth biggest R-rated opener of all time. It was not, however, 300's $70 million stunner.
"It's hard to manage expectations," Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' president for domestic theatrical distribution said today. "But with the length of the movie and the number of shows possible, I think this is an excellent number."
A tricky movie to gauge, Watchmen's gross nonetheless fell within projections, seemingly surprising only those who bet on a bigger-than-300 debut. Still, Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock said the film's ultimate success will be determined by its performance next weekend.
"If it holds like a horror film, well, then that's going to turn into a nightmare scenario," Bock said. "But if it can hold onto No. 1 two weeks in a row, then it's going to benefit Warners."
A potential bad sign for Watchmen is that it did play like a horror film this weekend, making nearly half its money on opening day. From a $25.1 million Friday, its gross slipped to $19 million on Saturday, and was projected to fall to $11.5 million today.
"I wouldn't say that's a positive sign it's going to hold on," Bock said.
Holding on is key to Watchmen because it's a pricey movie, reputedly costing $120-$150 million (not including court fees)-more expensive than four of the five top-debuting R-rated films, including the $65 million 300, which was also released by Warners and directed by Zack Snyder.
"There were people who thought [Watchmen] would blow the socks off the industry," Bock said, "and it just didn't happen."
Not yet, anyway.
Drilling down into the numbers:
Among comic book Movies, Watchmen is looking most like The Incredible Hulk: $150 million budget; $55.4 million debut. The Incredible Hulk ended up grossing a credible, yet, given its budget, unincredible $134.8 million domestically.
When judged against its weekend competition and not history, Watchmen absolutely dominated. Among the top 12 highest-grossing films, it accounted for more than 54 percent of all ticket sales.
Watchmen did its civic duty, helping Hollywood continue to skirt the recession. After this weekend, Exhibitor Relations reported, ticket sales are running 12.7 percent ahead of last year; attendance is up 11.1 percent.
If you see the Jonas Brothers, please administer oxygen. The band's 3-D concert movie ($2.8 million) plunged 78 percent from last weekend's disappointing opening and nearly fell right out of the Top 10.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop and liam neeson are the anti-Jonases. In its eighth weekend, the $26 million Kevin James comedy moved up to fifth place ($4.2 million) and pushed its haul to $133.6 million. In its sixth weekend, Neeson's $38 million Taken moved up to third place, and neared $120 million overall.
The Oscar bounce is keeping things hopping for slumdog millionaire ($6.9 million) and The Reader ($2.1 million). Overall, the $15 million Slumdog has passed the $200 million mark worldwide.
In limited release, the short-film collection Tokyo! grossed $21,500 at one theater for the weekend's best reported per-screen average. The indie drama Explicit Ills, with Rosario Dawson, did well to take in $9,600 from one theater.
Here's a look at the weekend's top-grossing films based on Friday-Sunday estimates from Exhibitor Relations:
Watchmen, $55.7 million
Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, $8.8 million Taken, $7.5 million slumdog millionaire, $6.9 million Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $4.2 million He's Just Not That Into You, $4 million
Coraline, $3.3 million Confessions of a Shopaholic, $3.1 million Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, $2.8 million Fired Up, $2.6 million