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Watchmen Squashed By Most Electrifying Man In Family Entertainment, Box Office Plunges

So, yeah, that happened this weekend. One of Warner’s excecutives is quoted in the article as citing similar drops in X-Men III and Fantastic Four II. Those are certainly two movies I never expected to see mentioned in relation to Watchmen. Well, them and Sex and the City.

18 Comments

How do they have the exact numbers and percentages of these movies on the Saturday (read about this drop and weekend sales yesterday) of the weekends they are talking about? I get that there’s some dropoff and extrapolation from Friday’s numbers, but why do they doom and gloom everything Friday night with estimate numbers as if they are always fact?

Because they historically tend to be accurate. And I’m not sure what Warner Brothers was expecting. An R rated movie about nearly unheard of superheroes with no A or B list stars that runs 2 and a half hours? I liked the movie, but I never thought it would be a mainstream hit.

Random Stranger

March 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Because they’re really good at estimating those numbers from their spot polls. Occasionally when a film has an odd demographic it might shift twenty percent but even a huge revising of the numbers upward makes this a very bad situation for Warners.

So many things going against this movie like the above poster already mentioned – the “R” rating, mostly unfamiliar heroes, movie length, so-so word of mouth for comic fans, etc., it’s a miracle that it did as much money as it has so far. I’m going to see it again because I liked it.

Personally, I’m kind of happy it’s not doing well. I enjoyed the movie a lot and will own it when it’s out on DVD. I’m even going to try to see it one more time in the theater. However, poor box office performance could lead to the following:

1) No sequel. If Watchmen had done Dark Knight business, you can bet WB would have hacked one together.

2) A potential reversal on WB’s “we’re gonna make all our superhero movies all dark and grim” policy. Maybe now they might be willing to admit a lot of Dark Knight’s success was due to morbid curiosity.

So, yeah. The movie exists now. They can’t unmake it, no matter how poorly it performs at the box office. But if it means they don’t make a sequel and the next Superman movie doesn’t involve him punching people’s brains out, I hope Watchmen falls right out of the theater by next week.

One thing kind of interesting, it was obvious all the studios cleared the deck thinking WATCHMEN was going to be a blockbuster, with no remotely competitive movie opening the same weekend, and really nothing the week before either, and very little the week after. I wonder if it would even have managed the vaguely respectable 55M opening if it had any other new action movie as competition. Now I guess the contest is to see if it manages to stumble past the 100M mark.

According to Richard Roeper, the estimates are not accurate and execs don’t use them for anything but publicity. It can takes weeks before exact numbers are known but even those can be “changed” in accounting (remember how Stan Lee wasn’t going to be paid for royalties on Spiderman because it lost money?*) The initial numbers are used in ads, even if they turned out to be completely wrong.

*Maybe that’s a bad example for Kirby fans, so remember how Winston Groom wasn’t going to be paid for royalties because Forrest Gump lost money?

Plus, those numbers only reflect weekend gross. I’ve heard Watchmen has done unusually well during the week.

Well, it won’t go away soon. It’ll be an iconic movie for ages. But all the stated reasons mentioned are correct. I never read the comics either, and I bought Frank Millers Dark Knight, Year One and Daredevil runs when they first came out in the 80s. It’ll earn its money back, and then some. The marketing of this movie took a lot of things for granted, including the idea that everyone thought the comic was the best thing since sliced bread, but we’re dealing with readers who’ve read everything from Kanes Batman to Will Eisners Spirit to Sterankos Fury to Lee and Kirby to Herb Trimpes Hulk to Neil Adams to Frank Miller to Bob Layton and everyone else. We like the idea of a great comic movie based on a terrific comic, but they went overboard with the acclamation of it all. I couldn’t find 10 people I know who knew who The Watchmen were. But if I mentioned Hawkman or The Green Goblin or Black Canary or The Thing or even The Mystery Men, then I could find those people. A little preventative premarketing would have gone a very long way in both selling the movie and the book. This is what they’ll need if they want to sell that Watchmen DVD, and maybe, I think, an IMAX directors cut theatrical re-release of the full running length. Let’s see it get done.

Watchmen is made of fail because it only made $86 in the US in 10 days?

Modok – Watchmen (the comic) is pretty much universally acclaimed within the industry, by both creators and fans. I don’t know where your sample came from, but I’d personally be hard pressed to find a reader (either in online forums or at my local shops) who has kept up with the last 10-15 years’ worth of devolopments in the medium/genre who hasn’t heard of it, and knows of its influence on the industry, even if they haven’t read it themselves. For the past decade, especially, its influence has been nearly inescapable. The general public, on the other hand, had no idea what the hell it was. With Moore withdrawing the use of his name on film adaptations of his work (which is absolutely his right to do, and should be respected), they couldn’t even pitch it as “From the creator of V For Vendetta”, which would have created at least some form of public awareness of what to expect that would have been far more accurate then the 300 connection.

In addition to the factors mentioned in the above posts, I don’t think that the movie’s marketing did it any favors, and probably hurt it more than it helped. It may have been a deliberate Trojan Horse strategy, pitching it as a more conventional superhero picture and then hoping audiences would be blown away when the rug was pulled out from under them by the film’s real content. Then again, maybe they didn’t think audiences could be enticed into seeing it any other way. Either way, it appears to have backfired, if audience feedback is any indication.

There’s also the posibility that 300 was a one-off fluke, and early March just isn’t a good time to open a would-be blockbuster. Witch Mountain is more in line with the numbers pictures released this time of year usually pull in.

This is kind of a surprise to me, becuase when I went to see it yesterday afternoon the theater was almost full. I figured if it was still doing that well during the day a week later, it must be doing well. Maybe the theater I was at or the market I’m in is a fluke.

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

March 15, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Watchmen’s actually rather well-known beyond pure comics circles. Time named it one of the best novels of the 20th century, and ti was the only non-prose entry on their list.

It is known (although I’m not sure I would say well known; it’s certainly not as well known as Maus, or possibly Sandman, for that matter) outside of comics circles, but the average man in the street probably didn’t know much about it, or what it was, just as the same hypothetical man wouldn’t know many of the other books on the Time list. More importantly the “general public” that makes or breaks mega-budget Hollywood event films probably didn’t know what it was, what to expect, or why the book was important, any more than they would know (or care about) Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow. The contemporary comics reader who doesn’t know about it, however, is probably about as unlikely as an English Lit grad student who has never heard of Joyce or Pynchon.

“Plus, those numbers only reflect weekend gross. I’ve heard Watchmen has done unusually well during the week.”

I don’t know where you’ve heard that, but Watchmen’s weekday box office numbers are rather disappointing compared to other blockbusters. (It’s true that weekday numbers are quite good compared to other movies that have opened this year so far, but they didn’t cost over $200 million to produce and market.)

Watchmen made $3.8 million on Monday and $2.6 million on Thursday. On its first week after the opening weekend, 300 made $7.6 million on Monday and $5.4 million on Thursday. In fact, 300 made $2.9 million on its second Thursday, even though it had fewer screens than Watchmen.

“Watchmen is made of fail because it only made $86 in the US in 10 days?”

If that were the case, then it would be the biggest cinematic disaster in history. (I think you forgot to add “million” after $86.)

Taking 300 as an example again, it made $85 million in 5 days and $129 million in 10 days. 300 ended up grossing $210 million in the US, so if we assume that Watchmen has similar lasting power as 300, its total gross will be around $140 million. But Watchmen is dropping faster than 300, so it’s likely to be less.

More importantly the “general public” that makes or breaks mega-budget Hollywood event films probably didn’t know what it was, what to expect, or why the book was important, any more than they would know (or care about) Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow. The contemporary comics reader who doesn’t know about it, however, is probably about as unlikely as an English Lit grad student who has never heard of Joyce or Pynchon.

Probably the more accurate parallel is “Battlefield Earth”, which only made about a third of its production budget in theaters. The breadth of the appeal of “Watchmen” is easy to over-state because of the intensity of its fans. It is arguably the greatest superhero comic book, ever. However, there just are not that many people who are interested in superhero comic books anymore.

Superhero movies? Sure, millions of people saw “Dark Knight” last summer.
Superhero TV series? You bet, “Smallville” is rolling into its ninth season.
Superhero video games? Absolutely.
Superhero comics? About 250 thousand people who are mostly middle-aged, white and male. The gross to date is a testament to the towering reputation of the book.

Dean, your figures and demographics for comic sales are ridiculous.

Your figures and demographics for comic sales are ridiculous.

Bob Modok, maybe there is a much larger audience reading comics beyond the direct sales business. I certainly hoper so, because those numbers are grim. Looking the sales figures, a top Marvel title moves around 100,000 units in a month:
http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2009/03/06/marvel-month-to_month-sales-january-2009/

Meanwhile, a top DC ongoing title moves closer to 90,000:
http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2009/03/06/dc-comics-month-to-month-sales-january-2009/

The indies are topping out in the 60,000 range for the most part:
http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2009/03/27/indie-comics-month-to-month-sales-february-2009/

I tend to think that there are about as many people buying both Batman and Spider-Man as there are buying … say … The New Avengers and not Spider-Man. That suggests that the total comic market is around 250,000 folks on the direct sales side.

On the demographics side, I am just commenting on what I have seen. Maybe my sample is skewed. Again, I hope so.

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