The Reject Report Watches Out for Watchmen


It’s the week of Watchmen here at the Reject Report! That’s right, the most highly-anticipated movie of 2009 — at least, among the comic-book geeks — is finally upon us with Watchmen, based on the celebrated limited series comic book of the same name.

It is also the only movie going out in wide release this weekend, with at least 3,600 screens ready to bring Watchmen-mania to the masses. I can tell you right now: midnight screenings are already selling out and the hype machine for this movie is kicking into overdrive. On Monday night alone, I was waiting for the premiere of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, and so I happened to tune into the “Tonight Show”. Guess what, folks. There she was, Malin Akerman, sitting with Jay Leno and promoting Watchmen.

I am not going to say too much about Watchmen, as you’ve already read and seen plenty of articles about it both on Film School Rejects and everywhere else by now. It’s directed by Zack Snyder, who also directed 300. In addition to the sexy Miss Akerman, the cast for this one includes Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer, and Carla Gugino. As you know, it’s taken a long time for the adaptation to get to the screen. Then there was the infamous legal blowup between Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox over the rights to the movie, with the whole thing finally being settled out of court. But that is all over and done with, and now this much-anticipated movie is ready to go.

I have been wracking my brain for the past several days trying to come up with a box office prediction for this movie. As you know by now, the box office has been just crazy for weeks on end, with Madea Goes to Jail winning the weekend box office for two weekends in a row. In fact, Tyler Perry’s hit holds the distinction of having the best opening weekend of 2009 so far, at $41 million, just ahead of Friday the 13th.

I’m thinking heck, if Madea Goes to Jail can rake in $41 million, then Watchmen ought to do better than that, surely to God.

I’ve been looking for relevant precedents to compare Watchmen to as far as potential box office is concerned. Of course, I think there is no way Watchmen will touch The Dark Knight’s massive $158 million opening. Iron Man opened at $98 million last May, and The Incredible Hulk opened at about $55 million. As you will recall, there was NO anticipation for The Incredible Hulk. I remember that everyone was complaining and boohooing about the movie and saying how terrible it was going to be, how they weren’t looking forward to it, bla bla bla. And it still made $55 million and finished in first place in its opening weekend.

For me, though, the most relevant precedent is Snyder’s pic from 2007, 300, which rolled out on 3,100 screens and made $70 million dollars. That was another dark, violent, gory comic book pic that wasn’t exactly aimed at a mainstream audience, and yet it made a fortune. And like Watchmen, the circumstances of the release were pretty similar: it was a March opening facing no competition from other new releases. For that matter, it wasn’t facing much competition from Oscar-award-winning movies or major sporting events, either. The coast was clear for 300, just as it is this weekend for Watchmen.

Here’s what leads me to believe we are looking at a similar haul to 300: the midnight screenings are selling out across the country, and the pre-sales figures are already through the roof. It was running at 61 percent of ticket sales at Fandango, which was ahead of 300’s pace when it came out. Moreover, reported that Watchmen was outpacing 300 by a 4-to-1 margin earlier this week.

On the flip side, a few things hurt: the R rating is bound to keep away some people, and I do think this will not have the same type of appeal as, say, Iron Man or The Dark Knight. I’ve heard stories about how the lack of star power might hurt the picture. On the other hand, I’ve also read a lot of stories about how this movie is going to make a big star out of Malin Akerman — who, up until now, has never met a flop movie she didn’t like (Harold and Kumar, The Heartbreak Kid etc.). I guarantee you this — by this same time next week, nobody in the geek world will care about Megan Fox anymore. Instead, they’ll all be drooling over Silk Spectre II. Gotta love them latex outfits.

Others think that this may turn off people because it’s too dark a movie. But we have had a long string of dark movies winning at the box office lately — horror movies, in particular. But this isn’t a horror movie, it’s based on one of the most revered comic books of all time. And the marketing machine has been through the roof.

You know, I’ve been wrong so many times in the last few weeks here at the Reject Report, I might as well go along with what most other prognosticators out there are saying and be wrong again. $73 million for Watchmen.

Now you watch, it’ll probably make only $30 million and I’ll look like a fool again. Seriously, though, my feeling is that we’ll see a big opening weekend for Watchmen, and then it will probably drop heavily next week, precisely for the reasons a lot of people are pointing to — because of the R rating and the violence and the dark nature of the subject matter and so on. This weekend, though, should be huge. (At least, I think it will be huge, but you never know.)

Once more, my prediction for how the weekend will turn out:

  1. Watchmen $73 million
  2. Slumdog Millionaire $10.5 million
  3. Madea Goes to Jail $10 million
  4. Taken $7 million
  5. Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience $6 Million
  6. He’s Just Not That Into You $3.8 million
  7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop $3.6 million
  8. Coraline $3.5 million
  9. Confessions of a Shopaholic $3 million
  10. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li $2.5 million

A brief note for you Oscar fans out there: Slumdog Millionaire finally hit first place on Tuesday night, making just under a million dollars. Woo hoo, first place! I’m excited. It sure took that movie long enough — a film of that quality really should have made it to first place a long time ago.

So that is what I think might happen this weekend with Watchmen — but who the heck knows, especially based on all the crazy stuff that has gone on this year at the box office. We’ll be back at the end of the weekend to see if we finally got one right, for a change, here at the Reject Report.

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