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Who watches the 'Watchmen'? Not enough people

The superhero flick's box office drops 68% in its second weekend.

March 17, 2009|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

"Watchmen" dropped a precipitous 68% this weekend, grossing $17.8 million after doing $55.2 million in its opening weekend. Forget about Humpty Dumpty -- a real human being might end up in the emergency room after a drop like that (the movie fell 50% overseas as well).

Only in Hollywood could anyone put a smiley face on that kind of fall. Sure enough, in Variety's box-office story Monday, Jeff Goldstein (no relation), Warner Bros.' executive vice president of domestic distribution, said, "This drop falls within the norm for big and highly anticipated movies."

I think what he meant to say was that "Watchmen's" drop falls within the norm for big and highly anticipated movies that people didn't like enough to bother telling their friends to see.

Goldstein cited as evidence the second weekend drop-off for "The Incredible Hulk," which last summer fell 60% after a $55-million opening weekend yet went on to make a little money. I think he's dreaming if he thinks "Watchmen" will hold up in a similar fashion.

The movie that offers the best comparison -- and thanks to my colleague John Horn for most of these numbers -- is the 2003 "Hulk," which cost almost as much as "Watchmen's" $150 million, opened at $62 million and then dropped 69%, barely reaching $132 million in its final U.S. tally.

If you compare "Watchmen" with big and highly anticipated movies that performed well, its drop-off doesn't look so good. The comparisons might include "Iron Man," which dropped off only 49%, or "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which dropped off 55%.

Even "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which was widely considered to be a huge disappointment last year, dropped only 58% in its second weekend.

The really bad news is actually overseas, where, in Germany, "Watchmen" opened behind the premiere of "Marley & Me"; in France, where it opened behind the second weekend of "Gran Torino"; and in Italy, where it opened behind the premieres of "Gran Torino" and "Bedtime Stories."

It did open in first place in Britain by a wide margin, but the returns are far less impressive in the rest of the world. When it comes to "Watchmen," you can put lipstick on a pig, but this movie still looks like a porker.

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patrick.goldstein @latimes.com

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