If it feels like all you’ve done this week is read stories about Watchmen, that’s probably because you have. But don’t worry! By Monday morning, the suspense will be over and the whole world will know who actually watched the … well, you know. Projections for the opening weekend have been all over the map, ranging from as high as $100 million to as low as $60 million. Normally, we consider ourselves fairly adept at reading the box office tea leaves, but even we’re not sure what to expect. About the only thing we do know is that Watchmen won’t reach The Dark Knight’s hilariously over-the-top three-day haul of $158 million. But will it even reach The Fantastic Four’s $56 million opening weekend? Using our best mathematical guesstimates, here’s how we see the gross breaking down.
The Competition: One of the biggest things Watchmen has going for it this weekend is that it’s the only draw in town. Your local theater is filled with movies you’ve already seen (Slumdog Millionaire); or watched because there was nothing else playing (Taken); or flat-out rejected in the first place (The International). Based on that alone, Watchmen should be able to grab a significant chuck of money. If Madea Goes to Jail can gross $41 million in its first frame, why can’t Watchmen do more? (+ $50 million)
The Fanboys: The core constituency for Watchmen is dually important: Obviously they’ll come out in droves to see it this weekend, but they’ll also need to come back multiple times to inflate the final numbers. Since Watchmen is skewing slightly older with this crowd than other superhero movies have in the past, we wonder how rabid the fan base will truly be once they see the film a first time—the older the geek, the more responsibilities they presumably have. Still, that’s an issue for weekend number two. These are the people who have been waiting to see Watchmen for more than 20 years. They’ll be there in droves. (+ $30 million)
The Variables: This is where things get tricky. Watchmen is playing on 3,611 screens, the most ever for an R-rated movie (+ $10 million), but it’s also over 160 minutes long, meaning theaters will have less showings available (- $5 million). With few exceptions (cough, Roger Ebert), critics have savaged the film (- $5 million), but the non-professionals who have written reviews on their blogs love it (+ $2 million). The cast is filled with no-name actors, a huge problem; imagine how much money Watchmen would have made if Brad Pitt played Ozymandis instead of Matthew Goode (-$15 million). And, the fact is, not many people even know who or what the Watchmen are—we don’t think any kids grew up playing with Rorschach dolls. At least X-Men had Wolverine (- $5 million).
Final Predicted Gross: $62 million