Following Watchmen‘s disappointing opening weekend, we think it would be fair to say its chances of being a box-office blockbuster have vastly diminished.
The film was supposed to be a hit right out of the gate and drop off its second weekend. Now that Watchmen made a worse-than-expected $55.2 million (the actual weekend gross was even less than the weekend estimate) and still has a $125-150 million production budget to recoup, it’s going to be a long haul to break even.
We wouldn’t dare try to predict how much the movie will ultimately make at the domestic box office. But an NYU business school professor has. To be fair, he’s not writing about Watchmen specifically, but Professor Jeffrey Simonoff’s regression model on how opening weekend results predict total box-office grosses offers an interesting guide for those wondering how much Watchmen will earn.
He begins by noting that opening weekend box-office revenues typically account for 25% of a film’s total domestic gross. But there are myriad factors that affect how a film will do at the box office over its theatrical run, which Simonoff confronts throughout his paper, forcing him to revise his model.
He ultimately produces the following formula for roughly determining the total gross of a wide-release film based on its opening weekend tally:
Log domestic = -0.164+1.09 Log 1st weekend.
Simonoff’s model isn’t 100% accurate (he’s not psychic), but it comes pretty close to determining a film’s ultimate domestic box office gross. We tested it with Hitch, one of the films he tried, and 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, which did well but not outlandishly spectacular at the box office: $33.4 million opening weekend, $134.5 million domestic total. Why else did we pick Live Free or Die Hard? Because it’s awesome.
For both Hitch and LFDH we got lower totals than both films ultimately achieved, but Simonoff’s model could also predict a total that’s too high, particularly for movies that are especially front-loaded like Spider-Man 3, which opened with an impressive $151M+ despite a bunch of bad reviews. The film went on to make $336.5 million, which is nothing to sneeze at but it’s not as much as Simonoff’s model predicts: his model has the film making $564.2 million. In your dreams, Sony.
That said, Simonoff’s model predicts Watchmen‘s overall domestic gross will be $188,294,010.
Depending on how much Warner Bros. spent on marketing (Nikki Finke says it was $50 million), that may or may not be enough to break even. Also, even The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. thinks that’s too high: it has adjusted its number down to account for the fact that this weekend’s total was probably particularly high because of fanboy interest in the film: THR thinks Watchmen will only manage to eke out $130 million in the U.S. That would most likely not be enough to break even.
But, Simonoff’s model is something to keep in mind as you’re watching the Watchmen.
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