Watchmen: Big but Not Spectacular Success for Long, Violent Picture

March 8, 2009–Warner' superhero picture “Watchmen” grossed an estimated $55.7 million from 3,611 theaters in its domestic debut, coming in lower than expected but still scoring the best opening of the year and one of the best showings ever for an R-rated film.

The studio had hoped for the movie to transform into a March tentpole and match or top the $70.9 million opening of Zack Snyder's previous film “300,” which opened in March 2007.

“Watchmen's” running time, however, was 162 minutes esclusing trailers. At that length, theaters couldn't play as much runs of the movie as they did “300,” which ran under two hours.

“Watchmen,” based on the iconic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, played heavily to fans, i.e., males between the ages of 17-34.  But it had some trouble broadening out. The picture is considered a hard R because of its graphic violence and sex.

“Watchmen's” 124 Imax runs were sold out throughout the weekend. Imax runs accounted for $5.5 million; the circuit's best opening weekend number after “The Dark Knight” ($6.3 million).

Overall, “Watchmen” nabbed the third highest March opening, and the fifth highest opening ever for an R-rated film.