04/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Watchmen Goes Down Hard (Friday box office numbers for 3/13/09)

And the comic geeks and fan boys will foam up about their waists and David Hayter, Zack Snyder, and Larry Gordon will look up and shout "Save us!"... and we'll whisper "no."

And so it goes. This was the day when the story would be written. I take no joy in the collapse of this ambitious but flawed epic. But, while we can argue about the relative success of last weekend's opening, it can no longer be denied that Watchmen will cost Warner Bros. quite a bit of money. And, in this economy, it may very well be used as an excuse for further lay offs. Furthermore the future comic book adaptations, the ones that are less conventional in nature (think Sleeper, Y The Last Man, or Powers) will now be hampered and find their budgets smaller, their casting restricted, and their creative freedom limited.

While opening weekends are mostly about marketing, the second weekend is about the critical reaction to the movie from general moviegoers (hence - The Dark Knight opened to about $7 million more than Spider-Man 3, yet ended up grossing nearly $200 million more by the end). And in this case, the moviegoers answered with a resounding 'thanks, but no thanks'. Watchmen grossed $25 million last Friday. It grossed just $5.3 million this Friday. That is a drop of 79%. Even with inflated Friday number (re - Thursday midnight screenings) and the weekend recovery (moviegoers often check out the new movies on Friday, then catch the holdovers that they missed or want to see again on Saturday), we are looking at a drop possibly exceeding Ang Lee's Hulk. Now Hulk dropped 76% on its second Friday, going from $24 million to $5.6 million. As you can see, the similarities are striking, but Hulk's summer weekdays allowed it to vastly outpace Watchmen during the first eight days. Hulk stood at $87 million on day eight, while Watchmen now stands at $73 million.

Heck, even The Happening only dropped 76% on its second Friday. This is just shy of High School Musical 3/Jonas Brothers 3D/Friday the 13th territory here. Friday The 13th won't be counted, because the final total hasn't been tabulated (although it'll likely have a record-settingly bad - for a movie that actually opened huge - weekend to total ratio of more than 55%), the general worst case scenario for a collapse of high-opening movies is 47%. That means that movies like The Village, The Happening, 8 Mile, Star Trek Nemesis, and High School Musical 3 did just under or just over 47% of their total domestic box office on their opening weekends (I wish Box Office Mojo had a chart for this, but they don't). So, let's just add a percentage point to Watchmen on account of its near record Friday collapse. If Watchmen ends up with a 48% weekend to total ratio, it'll end its domestic run with around $115 million. At this point, being optimistic, $130 million has to be the best case scenario here.

To read more about the Friday night numbers, including what came in #1 and what recent #1 opener isn't even in the top 14 for weekend three, go to Mendelson"s Memos...

Scott Mendelson

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