"Watchmen" hits big time at box office

Sun Mar 8, 2009 1:50pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Watchmen," an unorthodox superhero movie that took two decades to reach the big screen, took the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office in North America on Sunday, but fell a little short of expectations.

The adaptation of a cult comic book series sold an estimated $55.7 million in tickets in its first three days, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said, becoming the biggest opening of the year.

But pundits had expected an opening in the $60 million-plus range, and the tally was considerably lower than the $71 million start two years ago for "300," the previous film from "Watchmen" director Zack Snyder. The ancient battle epic holds the record for a March opening. "Watchmen" ranks at No. 3.

"Our expectations were met," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic theatrical distribution at the Time Warner Inc-owned studio.

He said the film's 161-minute running-time inevitably affected business, restricting theaters to one main evening screening. Male moviegoers accounted for about two-thirds of the audience, with the "sweet spot" aged between 17 and 35, Fellman said.

The occasionally gruesome film, which cost about $120 million to make, revolves around a team of crime-fighters targeted in a dastardly plot with dangerous implications for mankind.


A relatively unknown cast plays a similarly obscure lineup of characters, including the vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), the naked blue giant Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), and the occasionally topless Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman).

The project is based on the sprawling 1980s "Watchmen" comic books by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, which were long considered unfilmable because of their multiple characters, violence, digressions and abundance of dialogue.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Jeffrey Dean Morgan attends the party following the premiere of the movie "Watchmen" in Hollywood, California March 2, 2009. The movie opens in the U.S. March 6. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>