Watchmen experiences mass walkouts in New York City

by Paul William Tenny

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Photo copyright: Diego Sierralta.
What I'm sure a lot of people were expecting to be the most epic weekend ever in the history of graphic novel fandom kind of turned into a bummer for Warner Brothers.

Before I get into the box office results, I've got to point to some first hand reports that there were walkouts during a New York City screening over the weekend. Juan Carlos wrote that there were four distinct walkouts during his screening with people leaving groups at a time.
Just fifteen minutes into the 2.5+ hour flick, amidst heckling calls of "this fucking sucks", the first group -- as many as twenty people -- abruptly walked out of the theater. According to Juan, this happened at least three more times over the next two hours, and another report which I was unable to find from a commenter on had a full third of his audience walk out during the screening. [I attribute this to the Chicago Tribune. -ed]

Some of the walkouts are the inevitable result of stupid parents that don't understand that 'R' rated films are meant for adults. Others were undoubtedly unprepared for the graphic violence which the mainstream critics attacked as excessive -- including the murder of a child -- and some graphic sex scenes. I don't really think that Warner Brothers did a very good job explaining to people that this was not X-Men 4.

Anyway, to get on with the box office results -- accuracy of after-Friday predictions for weekend gross didn't disappoint: $55.5 million for Watchmen when tracking had run expectations into the $60-65 million range (but within half a million of predictions made after Friday.)

I know, I know -- people think that $25 million for Friday and $55 million for the weekend sounds like a lot of money, but not in the world that Watchmen lives in. Zack Snyder's budget was unreasonably high ($120-150 million) for a film of questionable popularity and there are as many as three different studios taking a piece of the pie.

Fox gets 6-8% because of their lawsuit against Warners -- it must be embarrassing for Fox to have fought over what turns out to be scraps on their end -- while Paramount is getting a big chunk (if not all) of the foreign receipts.

When theaters take their cut which can be as much as 45% when all is said and done, the truth is that Watchmen needed to beat 300's opening of $70.9 million (it cost less than that just to make the film) by a fairly wide margin and it needed to have legs that would carry it strongly into next weekend. It's bad news then that the movie dropped over 25% on Saturday and over 40% on Sunday against no other new films.

Going into next weekend it's very likely that Watchmen will end up second, or even third, with even steeper declines still to come. This movie is a failure as far as the box office is concerned, although it's not nearly as bad as it could have been. DVD sales which are almost pure profit will patch the wound, but it won't be the kind of windfall that Warners was hoping for.

I think ultimately the contrasting feelings of bloggers (loved it) and mainstream reviewers (hated it) accurately represents the audience dynamic. Anyone who went in to see the movie version of their favorite graphic novel was going to walk away satisfied for the most part. Everyone else was probably bored and disappointed, coming home to spread the bad news to their friends and family accounting for the steep falloff as the weekend progressed.

I make no judgments having not seen the film myself, but from the industry perspective, Watchmen was a disappointment.
in Film


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1 Comment

I can't imagine why parents would bring underage viewers into this movie without checking it out first. The violence was pretty graphic, but not more so than Kill Bill or Saw or other movies. And the sex was no where near Original Sin. All in all, just what I have come to expect from an R rated movie, with some really great effects, especially in Imax.

~ Kristi

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