As expected, the Zack Snyder adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece Watchmen was the top movie this past weekend bringing in $55.7 million domestically and $83.2 million worldwide.  As great as that news is, Watchmen didn’t open as high as some had expected, not even meeting Zack Snyder’s last film, 300, which brought in $70.9 million domestically.

As hyped as audiences were after seeing the trailer that was tacked on to the Dark Knight Returns movie, I wonder what could be the reason for the lower than expected numbers?  Fans loyal to Alan Moore, boycotting the film?  Too much hype that overloaded and turned off potential audience?  Those waiting until next weekend to see the film in hopes of avoiding the large crowds this past weekend?  The R rating and two hour forty minute run time? Or is it the economy?

Those expressing caution turned out to have been right, so Warners had to manage expectations after the fact.

A substantial roadblock was “Watchmen’s” running time of 2:40. At that length, theaters couldn’t play as many runs of the pic as they did “300,” which ran under two hours.

“It truly makes a huge difference. Every studio wanted to attach their trailer to ‘Watchmen,’ so it ended up being more like three hours. When a movie is 2:40, there’s only one main show a day,” Warners prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said. “We’re pleased with the opening.”

I went and saw the movie on Sunday, and there were less than a dozen people in the theater; great for me as I didn’t have to worry about all the talkers as I spilled nacho cheese everywhere, but not so good for those hoping comic book movies will remain strong draws at the box office.

Don’t forget, for those that did see the movie, we do have a talk back post for you to weigh in your thoughts.

via Variety

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

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  1. Ok
    March 9, 2009 at 8:56 am — Reply

    I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m not sure that the low box office has to do with the quality of the film- I think it has to do with the ridiculously long running time: 2:40. You can only show it so many times. If it were 2 hrs long- you could show it 25% more. 55.7 x 1.25 = 70mm.

    I dunno. I’m probably wrong.

  2. morpheus11
    March 9, 2009 at 9:05 am — Reply

    I think you are right that the long running time didn’t allow for as many showings to be run, but I also think the economy had something to do with it. I wasn’t able to go this weekend b/c of the time and money that I had to spend on other things. But, I am hoping to go next weekend if I can squeeze it in.

  3. Graciela
    March 9, 2009 at 10:16 am — Reply

    I went to a free viewing sponsored by the LA Times, I repeat that it was FREE, and hardly anyone was there. They had a full list of expected attendees and when they didn’t show up, the Times even pleaded that we just call anyone who can make it so it wasn’t a total failure. Pretty sad. But when I went on Saturday to the IMAX screening, it was a packed house, though the theater was smaller. So I’m not sure what the deal was. Maybe the running time, some of the mixed reviews, and definitely the economy played a role.

    Maybe the general audience wasn’t as interested as we all thought. My parents go see every bad comic book movie out there and they have no interest in seeing Watchmen.

  4. hermit
    March 9, 2009 at 10:28 am — Reply

    maybe people are afraid of the comparison to the comic book. they based most of their ad campain on that. those who read the book didn’t like it so have no interest in the movie. those who haven’t read it are afraid to loose something because of it.

    i liked it, a lot, and i’m going back

    p.s. IMAX suck

  5. Brother129
    March 9, 2009 at 10:32 am — Reply

    I’m waiting until this weekend to have time to sneak in a matinee. Three hours kills like half your day. It’s funny because many of my non-comic book fan friends saw the movie and were upset because they didn’t realize what they were getting themselves into. They wanted a “traditional” superhero movie….

  6. March 9, 2009 at 10:37 am — Reply

    I went and saw it Friday night. Had to go to a later showing cause the one i wanted to go to had sold out. Even going later I only saw about 3 open seats. Overall it was a pretty good movie. Always hard to stay close to the source material on anything be it a book or comic adaption when making a movie.

  7. duckface
    March 9, 2009 at 11:45 am — Reply

    i saw it at a packed imax screen in san francisco last night.

    i thought it did an excellent job of getting all the main points in; the parts it left out i don’t think would have translated to screen very well at all. only disappointment was ozymandias…

  8. March 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm — Reply

    I went to the 8 pm premiere and the theatre was about half full. Immediately after the movie a friend of mine remarked to me that the film wont be a success because it is too challenging for the average viewer who expect a popcorn movie. I also think the running time might be a factor in that too.

  9. hermit
    March 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm — Reply

    i don’t think the duration is a big factor. dark knight was 1h40m and it did very well, lord of the rings was the same. i think they just don’t want to go see something and have to read a book to fully get it. they just want to enjoy the movie. and in the case of watchmen, they probably don’t think they can because the promotion was made around the fact that the book is so important.

  10. The Dude
    March 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm — Reply

    Duration has nothing to do with it. The Lord of the Rings film were 3 1/2 hours long each and they all made big bucks at the box office. Titanic is the highest grossing movie of all time and it was nearly four hours long.

    I think a lot of fans (myself included), have given up on the whole movie theater experience and would rather wait an extra month or two until the DVD comes out. Plus, the economy doesn’t help either. $10 is a lot to pay to see a film that may, or may not be good. Some fans may be waiting for critical reaction before they spend their hard earned money.

    • March 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm — Reply

      $10 doesn’t include the concessions – I paid $6.50 for the ticket and then $16.25 for a drink, small popcorn and an order of nachos.

  11. Jacin B.
    March 9, 2009 at 2:20 pm — Reply

    I’m one of those that goes to see every crappy comic book movie made, if only to support the genre. And, I’d planned on waiting to see Watchmen in the theaters.

    Now, after reading several reviews of it, I’m planning to wait for the Blu-Ray. Of course, I’ve always been on ‘Meh.’ side of the fence on this movie. I’ve never been terribly impressed by anything Alan Moore has written. And, frankly, this movie never really looked all that appealing.

    ( And, keep in mind, that’s said by a comic book fan. Amplify the ambivalence several fold to gauge the average non-comic fan response and you’ll see why the movie did so poorly at the box office. )

  12. OS Perry
    March 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm — Reply

    Running time… the main media outlets doing interviews and such, saying that the graphic novel was next to impossible to turn into a movie… and didn’t sell the fact that, such a feat had been pulled off. No big name actor/actress draws. Not a big name comic title… like Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, etc. “Best Graphic Novel” of all time. So does that mean that many people have actually read it and would want to see a movie of it. Not a straight forward plot…

    As much as it has going for it… It has a lot not going for it. I want to see it, but I get why your average American movie-goer, could take a pass on it.

  13. March 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm — Reply

    Am I the only one who is having deja-vu? Remember the hype and subsequent crash of Grindhouse? I enjoyed this movie immensely, but it lacks the crossover appeal that Spider-Man or even Iron Man gets from the non comic division of society.

  14. Jacin B.
    March 9, 2009 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    I would also guess part of the hesitancy comes from the unnecessarily graphic nature of the movie.

    Yes, the ‘graphic novel’ was graphic and contained a lot of adult material. But, based on the reviews and depictions I’ve read, Snyder (for whatever reason) felt the need to punch it up a notch in the transition to the screen.

    For example, in the book, Rorshach kills the pedophile killer by chaining him inside his house and burning it down. Fine. The horrific nature of the pedophile’s death is left to the reader’s imagination. In the movie, Rorshach apparently repeatedly buries a butcher’s cleaver in the guy’s skull after chaining him down and then burns the house down after. Why?

    In the book, Dr. Manhattan blows up a criminal’s head but it is hidden behind a cloud. In the movie, he blows up mutliple people, leaving the other bystanders completely coated in their blood and their entrails and grey matter dripping from the ceiling. Why?

    I think that if Snyder had opted to be a little more ‘The Dark Knight’ and a little less ‘Hostel’ or ‘Saw’, it might’ve been received a little better.

    As it is, he seems to have taken a relatively unknown (to the common non-comic geek) source material from a niche market and further reduced those interested (or capable) of seeing it by pushing the gratuitous gore factor over the top for, it seems, nothing more that shock value.

    • March 9, 2009 at 10:28 pm — Reply

      Jacin B: I don’t think the violence was as over the top as people are saying. Yes, there are graphic moments. Yes, we do get to see Rorshach bury the cleaver (no house burning though), yes we do get to see broken bones, blood flying, and the like, but 300 was way more over the top. I’d be interested to see what you think after you see the film. Would it have worked if Snyder had toned done the blood and guts and nekkid boobies? Eh, maybe – it’s hard to tell. Seeing these horrific acts did cause me to feel sympathy for the average citizens in this movie as I could see their reasoning for being afraid of the Watchmen and wanting to ban all vigilantes. If Snyder had toned it down, audience members may have walked away thinking, “why ban these heroes, they weren’t that violent?”

      But I agree that the R rating could also be keeping people away – especially the under 18 crowd, which more and more theater owners are turning away instead of going for the easy buck.

  15. Jim
    March 9, 2009 at 5:37 pm — Reply

    Jacin makes an excellent point. This is the first superhero/comic movie that has been rated R. While a lot of teens can sneak in, you don’t get the younger teen with parent combos that saw Iron Man and even TDK. Add the economy, unfamiliar source material to a lot of people, the very iffy reviews and there you go. But I didn’t really think this was going to make 70+ million. The opening haul actually seems pretty respectable to me. But there might be a huge drop-off in the 2nd week b/c of word of mouth. I haven’t seen it but am aiming to go this week.

  16. Allen Jones
    March 9, 2009 at 11:20 pm — Reply

    A correction to a post above, Blade was another rated R superhero/comic movie.

    I watched it twice, once in a regular theater, and the day after in IMAX. IMAX didn’t add much other than the audio, I caught a couple of things I didn’t catch during the regular showing (such as an elevator version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World during Adrian’s conversation with Lee Iacoka)

  17. March 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm — Reply

    I’m with Jacin in this issue.
    The rape scene was fine, the shooting of pregnant woman was fine (of course it was fine.. it was also on the comic), and actually, the blowing up of the mafia was fine for me.

    But too much violent made the audience distracted. The way Snyder put more casualty in Veidt’s assasination attemp is unnecessary. The way Sally and Dan beat the thugs should be done in Nolan’s TDK style (remember where Batman drop Sal Maroni? Or when Joker cut Gambol’s mouth?) which should make it more natural.

    And the funny thing, the scene which should have a lot of blood and gore, which are the beginning of chapter twelve, didn’t have any blood on it. The exclusion of news stand owner’s story and the psychiatrist’s story had already reduce the impact of the scene to the story, and the way they presented the impact (only a big hole and ruin) didn’t touch audiences’ heart how terrible Ozymandias’ act was. Moore and Gibbons dedicate eight pages of the massacre and yet, in the movie, it was only last few second.

    the movie was anticlimax for me. It had already ended when Roscharch chopped the murder’s head. I felt disastified how the psychiatrist tale were cut and I was already tired to see more blood.

    Snyder should tone down the violence and save the blood for the last scene.

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