Box Office Special - Tempering Expectations
Now that "Watchmen" -- the story Terry Gilliam once famously called unfilmmable -- has been filmed, this weekend was audiences' first chance to weigh in on the results. Whether through good planning or a disinterest on the part of rivals to go toe to toe with a high profile project, Zack Snyder had this weekend all to himself to knock it out of the park. And at first blush, he did just that. Aside from a number one finish and $55 million, "Watchmen" can now lay claim to the third largest March opening of all time (behind 2007's "300" and 2006's "Ice Age: The Meltdown"). This success also makes Snyder a perfect three for three, with all of his films having opened at number one.
Digging a little deeper though, one finds a narrative that isn't quite so rosy for "Watchmen." Indeed, the total was short of where most prognosticators had pegged the film, and certainly fell short of its backers lofty hopes. Consider that on this same weekend in 2007 "300" made $15 million more, and eclipsed its production budget on opening weekend. "Iron Man," which opened on a more favorable weekend and against equally worthless competition, made nearly twice as much, and actually cost $10 million less to make. With a pricetag of $150 million, and opening weekend now in the books, "Watchmen" will now have a fairly steep climb to financial respectability. It certainly won't be a flop, and overseas markets should help some, but cracking the gaudy domestic totals of some of the more established superhero franchises is likely all but out of the question. Of course, none of this should come as a shock. Gilliam gave up on the project for a reason, and everyone involved had to have known how risky of a proposition this could be. The good news is that the core fan base seems relatively happy, so Warner Bros. can likely leverage the interest to alternate revenue streams.
The most interesting story may be what happens to "Watchmen" next week, when it will face it's first real distractions at the box office. Not only will there be a new R-rated feature to draw older audiences attention, but it too is a bloody, violent affair that should appeal to a large portion of "Watchmen's" core audience. I'm talking, of course, about "The Last House on the Left," the fourth horror remake of 2009. While all these remakes may have been causing dissension among the horror ranks, they by and large have been very good for business. "Last House" should provide box office watchers with some compelling nuggets to bring to bear on future remake projects. Unlike "Friday," it's not a very well known quantity outside the horror community, and it doesn't have the spectacle appeal of Real-D, a la "My Bloody Valentine." What it does have is what most would call a pretty catchy trailer, with some recognizable talent, and a harsh, violent look that is likely to tickle many fans in just the right places.
Unfortunately, we forgot to make our predictions on the show, so I'm going to have to do some freelance prognosticating on my own right here. Taking into account everything that I've said above, I'm thinking that $20 million sounds about right. I wouldn't be shocked to see $24 million, but I just don't know that enough folks will be able to avoid the glare of "Watchmen" long enough to make their way to the right theater. That being said, $20 million would be quite respectable, and would put "Last House" in line with "MBV's" earlier success. Any other horror fans got a prediction? Closest with out going over advances to the Showcase Showdown.