The numbers are in — Box Office Mojo reports that the Zack Snyder-helmed adaptation of Alan Moore’s superhero masterpiece hauled in $55.7 million on approximately 7,500 screens at 3,611 theaters. This comes from a budget of $150 million, scoring as the 12th highest-grossing opening weekend for a comic book movie, behind “Fantastic Four” (though it drops to 20th when ticket-price inflation is factored). “With the biggest theater count ever for an R-rated movie, Watchmen had the sixth-highest grossing R-rated start (though, again, adjusting brings it down to 14th), behind ‘The Matrix Reloaded,’ ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ ‘300,’ ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Sex and the City.’ Among Alan Moore adaptations, it doubled the openings of ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.'” The studio did exit polling, which indicated that 65 percent of the audience was male and 54 percent was over 25 years old. Those numbers include $5.5 million in 124 IMAX theaters, scoring as the second largest IMAX opening ever.
Sounds good, right? Yet already even large news services like Reuters are proclaiming that the film “falls short of expected box office take.” Their reporting noted that “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.”
Is the studio mad about this? “Our expectations were met,” said Dan Fellman, president of domestic theatrical distribution at the Time Warner Inc-owned studio.
Some important things to note that some media coverage ignored. First, the 163 minute running time that, when you include trailers, comes out to three hours of movie time. This means that theaters only showed it once during the prime 8PM-11PM hours, which could affect box office tallies. Second, the long-term financial concerns would be more problematic if second week box office receipts drop 60 percent or more. A drop in income of even as much as 40 percent — from a return-on-investment standpoint — would be considered acceptable. As well, there’s the ancilliary markets of pay-per-view, DVD and Blu-Ray sales left unconsidered — money on the table that remains uncounted and untaken.
CBR News did a lot of coverage on this project, and we’ve centralized that information here.