watchmen blue glow

Watchmen (Warner Bros) has followed a long and winding road, passing through the hands of some remarkable directors like Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King), Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) and Paul Greengrass (United 93), before landing in the lap of the mastermind behind 2004’s stunning re-imagining of Dawn of the Dead and 2007’s March blockbuster 300. From the moment that the first trailer for Zack Snyder’s $120M comic book adaptation made its debut at midnight screenings of The Dark Knight in July, this has been a sure-fire mega-hit. Now, the big screen version of the 1986 graphic novel will be unleashed on Friday.

The original comic was written by Alan Moore and the lead artist was Dave Gibbons. The collaborators have radically different views of Snyder’s film adaptation. The latter has publicly expressed confidence in Snyder. Gibbons reveals to Wired magazine that at one point Joel Silver owned the film rights to Watchmen and that the producer was insistent that Arnold Schwarzenegger should play Dr. Manhattan. (That would have potentially been an unintentional disaster movie.)

The artist says although he never had much to do with previous attempts to make the movie, “I’ve been quite involved with the Zack Snyder one. I introduced myself to him at the U.K. premier of 300, and right from the very beginning we kind of hit it off, and I really had that gut feeling that he was going to do it properly. And I must say everything that I’ve seen since has only increased my confidence, to the point that I just think it’s a wonderfully fortuitous piece of timing and the right man at the right place at the right time.”

Moore, however, is very different kind of dude. On one hand, his story Watchmen has been named one of the top 100 English language novels ever written by Time magazine, ranking alongside Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, George Orwell and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Simultaneously, he reportedly considers himself to be a warlock and has placed a curse on Snyder’s movie. The writer tells the LA Times that his philosophy about Hollywood: “It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms.”

A number of Moore-written comics have made the jump to the big screen, including V for Vendetta (excellent movie), From Hell (a mess), Constantine (more of a mess) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (complete disaster), and he claims that he has never seen any of them. According to its author, his classic graphic novel Watchmen is “inherently unfilmable.”

It will take all of Moore’s warlock powers to keep WATCHMEN from cracking $60M this weekend

So, it is Zack Snyder vs. Alan Moore’s curse. Warlock or not, the industry pre-release tracking is sky high. In surveying my normal studio contacts Wednesday, the lowest prediction I could find was for a $55M opening weekend. One exec at a competing studio thinks that $70M-$75M is “in the bag,” but I’m going with a number a few ticks lower. The 163 minute running time will give the movie fewer showtimes overall and that sort of running time generally hurts late show business. I’m calling for $63M for 3 days.

If that number hits, Watchmen would post the all-time #3 March opening, trailing only Snyder’s 300 ($70.8M) and Ice Age: The Meltdown ($68M). It would also be the all-time fourth-best 1st quarter opening for Hollywood also finishing behind 2004’s The Passion of the Christ ($83.8M).

Curse…Schmurse.

FINAL PREDICTION FOR MARCH 6-8
1. NEW – Watchmen (Warner Bros) – $63M
2. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (Lionsgate) – $11.5M
3. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) – $9M
4. Taken (Fox) – $7M
5. Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (Disney) – $6.75M
6. He’s Just Not That Into You (Warner Bros) – $4.2M
7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) – $3.9M
8. Coraline (Focus) – $3.2M
9. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Diney) – $3.1M
10. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Fox) – $2.1M

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