"Watchmen" falls short of expected box office take

Sun Mar 8, 2009 10:47pm 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 bit 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.

Internationally, where the film was released by Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures, "Watchmen" earned a respectable $27.5 million from 45 territories. Top markets included Britain with $4.6 million and France with $2.5 million. The only major country still waiting is Japan, where it will open on March 28.


"Watchmen," 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).   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>