March box office may have come in like a lamb, but starting this Friday it should start taking on more lion-like qualities, with the release of the one of the most anticipated comic book movies in a long, long time.
Weekend Forecast for March 6-8, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
March 5, 2009
Watchmen is this weekend's big release, and the latest of renowned comic writer Alan Moore's works to hit the big screen, following From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V For Vendetta.
Widely regarded as the "Citizen Kane" of graphic novels, it's probably Moore's magnum opus and one of the biggest geek touchstones out there. However, its Q Number in the regular public was close to nothing until recently, since it was a one-off book with no spinoffs and featured no pre-existing characters. It's been in the works as a film almost since its publication in 1986, though its legendary unfilmability kept it in development hell until recently.
Films based on alternative comics finally got a jumpstart with 2005's Sin City, which opened to $29 million and finished with $74 million. Even more to the point was 2006's 300, that not-so-vaguely homoerotic erotic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, which surprised the world by opening to $70 million and finishing with $210 million total. Its director, Zack Snyder, got the reins for Watchmen largely based on his handling of this film.
Watchmen's complicated plot gathers together a group of "costumed heroes", vigilantes, and one truly superpowered individual for an attempt to see what the world really might turn into if superheroes were real. In Moore's opinion, it wouldn't be that great.
The world of Watchmen, set in 1985, sees the US and USSR edging closer to nuclear annihilation, with the Cold War growing increasingly hot. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, social ills have grown even stronger, with the public slowly rebelling against an increasingly totalitarian state. Among this growing chaos, someone starts hunting down current and former vigilantes, revealing a plot that could threaten the world - or perhaps save it.
The notably prickly author Moore - who may actually be a warlock of some kind - has been disappointed in each of the films made from his work, perhaps simply for their fact of existing, and Watchmen looks to be another case of that. That said, reviews for the film are fairly positive. The nature of comic films is that reviews don't convince too many people to see or not see a particular one, but then this is an Important Movie.
Early marketing for the film was stellar, with a trailer introducing the broad strokes of the story, though for the uninitiated, many of the characters still represent a bit of a mystery. It's a lot less transparent than "some shirtless Greeks run around with swords and hack people to pieces for 90 minutes", to pick one not-so-random example. But pent up nerds will see this en masse this weekend, and should bring a few friends who like exploding things. Opening at 3,600-plus venues, Watchmen should see a massive opening weekend of $53 million.
This leaves a grab bag of returning films to compete for the scraps of the rest of the box office, with Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire having the best chance of holding up. Expanding after taking home eight awards, it had its best week yet with $12 million on the weekend, with a total just under $120 million now. It'll start its exit from theaters this weekend, but after 12 out of 15 weeks seeing an increase in its box office, there's no reason to suspect it'll be rapid. Give it $10 million for this weekend.
Madea Goes to jail took the top spot for the second weekend in a row almost by default after the Jonas Brothers film failed to connect with teens. That was despite a 60% drop in its take, which, even if it still leaves it as the best performing Tyler Perry film to date, doesn't bode for a lot of life in this title. Maybe it'll hit $8 million this weekend, but that's probably a best-case scenario.
Probably even more prone to falling off a cliff are the aforementioned Jonas Brothers, whose $12 million concert film debut didn't even match one day of Miley Cyrus's film. Which, if I have my math right, means that one Jonas brother is equal to one ninth of a Billy Ray Cyrus offspring. This could fall as far as $4 million this weekend.
Taken, meanwhile, continues to hum along, remaining in the top five for an entire month and counting. Barely losing half of its opening weekend total after this amount of time in release, it's showing some old school legs and has quietly become the surprise of the first quarter as far as I'm concerned. It's certainly increased Liam Neeson's asking price for his next endeavor. However, it'll face a test as the next closest thing to Watchmen in the market, but everything from this point is a bonus for this film. Look for $7 million in this frame.
Paul Blart also won't die after a month and a half out there, but is slowly losing screens and eventually has to go away, right? It'll be down in the $4 million area, along with He's Just Not That Into You and Coraline.