Despite the provocative headline, even we have to admit Watchmen will probably do very well its first weekend because there’s enough interest among comic book geeks to rack up a nice three-day gross, possibly even a No. 1 debut.
But it seems like Watchmen won’t be able to transcend that core fan base and grab appeal a wider audience as time goes on, which will be necessary for its production companies, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, to make a profit.
The movie has such a large production budget (estimates range from $100 million-$125 million) and so many people are entitled to a cut of the box-office revenues that for Watchmen to be a success, it will have to make some serious cash at the cineplex.
Five reasons why we don’t think that’s possible:
- Poor Tracking: As we told you Tuesday, Watchmen isn’t tracking very well among people who aren’t already fans of the comic book, particularly teenage boys. Conventional wisdom holds that, especially for a film such as this, that’s the demographic that could make the movie a hit. Furthermore, if men under 25 and most women aren’t interested in seeing the film, as surveys released Monday night showed, it’s losing two more key audience segments. Even Zack Snyder’s last film, 300, appealed to both of those.
- Bad Reviews: Several high-profile publications have trashed the film, including The Hollywood Reporter, The New Yorker, Variety and USA Today. Again, this won’t derail the fanboys, but bad word-of-mouth from widely-read, well-respected sources of movie criticism is enough to keep people who aren’t already interested in the movie away from the theatres.
- Ridiculously Long Running Time: Watchmen clocks in at 2 hours and 41 minutes. Yowza! That is a looong time to sit still, and, more importantly, it makes it hard for theatres to cram in a lot of screenings, which help produce big box-office revenues.
- “R” Rating: Similarly, the film’s R-rating should limit its audience, provided ticket takers are checking ID. But, again, the mature rating cuts into the movie-going teenage demographic, who will have to settle for something PG-13 like, say,Taken, which is (ha!) distributed by 20th Century Fox and may end up ultimately making a bigger profit than Watchmen.
- It’s an impossible feat: It’s highly likely that Watchmen simply may need to make more money than a film of its nature is capable. The movie has a huge, summer blockbuster-like budget. So, to break even, Warner Bros. and Legendary would need the film to make roughly $200 million-250 million in the U.S. (Paramount’s handling the foreign release), possibly more if you factor in the exhibitor fees that the theatres take, the possibility that Warner Bros. may have to pay Fox 8.5% of the box-office revenues and whatever back-end deals the talent in the film have. We’re not Hollywood accountants (or agents), so we have no idea exactly how much money that takes out of the pot, but there are already only 48 movies that have made more than $250 million at the domestic box-office, and 300 isn’t one of them.
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