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Watching "Watchmen": Who Let the Air Out of the Box Office?

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Expectations were sky high for the Watchmen box-office weekend: $70 million at least. That's what 300, the last comic-book movie directed by Watchmen's Zack Snyder, gobbled up. But the Watchmen figure came in low at $56 million, counting the Thursday night showings and the $5.5 million from 124 IMAX screens. The studio suits blamed the R-rating and the nearly three-hour running time. They spun the figures. Watchmen was the biggest opening of the year! The sixth-highest debut on record for an R-rated film! Bragging about sixth place? A weak argument when you consider the that the saggy Matrix Reloaded took No. 1 for an R-rated movie with $92 million. And the defense won't rest. We're told that the Dark Knight opened at $158 million and Iron Man did $99 million because they were rated a more audience-friendly PG-13. Excuses. Excuses. Watchmen, despite respectable business, has to be counted a box-office disappointment. The younger fans just weren't out there in big enough numbers. Is the film's appeal limited to those who grew up with the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons comic book back in the 1980s? Will the movie grow in business in its second week or sink to even lower depths?

Those of you who saw the film this weekend have your opinions? And so do those of you who haven't seen it yet or never intend to see it. Let's hear your arguments. I'd also like to hear what you think of the film on its own merits -- screw the box office. My take is that Snyder actually tried something ambitious and that despite its substantial flaws Watchmen is well worth seeing. What's your take?

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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