‘Watchmen’ staggers in second week, 67% drop in box office

March 16, 2009 | 4:01 a.m.

UPDATED

Watchmen_comedian_6You’d think I’d know better than to bet against John Horn, the veteran reporter who covers the film industry for the Los Angeles Times. You see, I know movies, but John knows the movie industry, which is a whole different thing. The bet was on predicting the second-week grosses for “Watchmen,” the ambitious but imperfect super-hero epic that has the fanboy nation in wild debate about its merits and flaws.

I assumed that all the ongoing stir meant that more people would go see the film out of curiosity (the opposite of love, after all, isn’t hate, it’s apathy — and I didn’t sense apathy about this movie); John shook his head, smirked and compared”Watchmen” to Ang Lee’s dour “Hulk,” which dropped so far so fast in its second week that studio executives got windburn. Horn predicted that it would pull in less than $25 million after all the stink-bomb reviews. I took the “over” and we agreed on a wildly extravagant wager: A bowl of soup at The Times cafeteria.

Well, it looks like I’ll be buying the minestrone Monday. Remember the famous tag-line, “Who watches the ‘Watchmen’?” The answer: Not so many people, actually.

Here’s an excerpt from movie grosses story in The Times, which starts off with the cheery numbers posted by Race to Witch Mountain“:

The film’s opening success contrasted with the narrower audiences for the R-rated “Watchmen,” a dark story involving flawed and troubled superheroes, and “Last House on the Left,” also R-rated, a remake of a brutally violent 1972 horror movie.

According to preliminary figures released today by the studios, “Watchmen,” a Warner Bros. picture, took in $18.1 million in its second week in release, bringing its total to $86 million, according to movie data tracker Media by Numbers. “Last House,” from Universal, grossed $14.7 million in its first weekend.

Fox’s “Taken” was fourth, selling $6.7 million in tickets to raise its total gross to $126.8 million over seven weeks. Tyler Perry’sMadea Goes to Jail,” from Lionsgate, followed in fifth at $5.1 million.

Trailing them were Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire” at $5 million, and Sony/Columbia’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” at $3.1 million. “Slumdog,” with a total domestic gross of $132.6 million, and “Paul Blart,” with a total of $137.7 million, are part of this year’s spate of long-running hits.

Warner had hoped to join that trend with “Watchmen,” directed by Zach Snyder, whose “300” took in $71 million on its opening weekend two years ago and went on to gross more than $210 million in domestic release.

But “Watchmen’s” chances for a similar success ebbed as its take in the second weekend dropped 67% from the first weekend, despite its second-place finish.

Still, the film “held better than many had expected with strong midweek grosses,” noted Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers. The movie took in $3.9 million Monday, $3.4 million Tuesday and $3.9 million Wednesday, Dergarabedian said.

Sixty-seven percent drop? Yikes. I think there will be some people at Warners sobbing in their own soup when they look back on this R-rated superhero gamble … at least the DVD and Blu-ray sales should be strong. Right?

– Geoff Boucher

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WANT MORE? All “Watchmen” coverage at Hero Complex

This post was updated Monday morning with extra links and the line about Ang Lee’s “Hulk”…

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