Who watched Watchmen?
27/03/09 23:28 Filed in: Movies
I was the third person in Trinidad and Tobago to buy a ticket for the first showing of Watchmen in the island and that’s because the box office wasn’t ready when I got there.
This wasn’t the act of an obsessive. Well, not much.
I wanted to write about it for BitDepth and my deadline for the column is on Wednesday, so the first show at MovieTowne would give me just enough time to view, contemplate and write before delivering. The very next night, I took the boss to see the film at our preferred movie going haven, Globe.
At both showings I found myself in an audience of less than twenty people and at the Globe showing, some of the folks left at the artificial “intermission” that the cinema house imposes to drum up sales for its popcorn concession. In less than a week, the posters were down and the film was quietly fading from local view.
That lackluster performance isn’t unique to Trinidad and Tobago, as of May 22, 2009, Nigeria was reporting a take of $9,074.
In retrospect, it isn’t surprising. There’s been almost no promotion of the film locally outside of the advertising that appears on cable television, but there may be a deeper issue in the disconnect that’s proved to be an almost immovable wedge between the film and any potential audience it could hope to drum up.
The Dark Knight proved that a bleak film about a costumed hero could make money, but people know who Batman is and are, arguably, primed for a fresh look at the character. Particularly after the travesty of Batman and Robin.
Watchmen features characters that are vaguely familiar, featuring actors who are largely unknown in a story that offers little of the explosive dynamism that most expect in tales of caped adventurers.
My own suspicion is that the larger disconnect is the nature of the story, an alternative history science fiction tale that depends to a large degree on some familiarity with the last sixty years of American social and popular history.
There haven’t been many stories on the screen that make use of this form of science fiction, a style that enjoys a very particular audience in the world of written sci-fi, so there’s little to compare it with or to look to as a prior example for reaching a cinematic audience.
Looking at Boxoffice Mojo’s chart of foreign income. it’s easy to see that countries which haven’t traditionally taken an admiring interest in American social development have little interest in an alternative history of facts they hardly know or care about.
At the heart of book and movie is a powerful, paralysing anxiety about nuclear war that was a real part of living in America in the 1980’s, but who in Egypt or Lithuania knows or cares about those issues today?
Update note: Watchmen didn't entirely disappear from local screens. It's still playing at CC8 and Movietowne as of March 30. Evidently there are now crowds. Word about the film seems to have spread positively.