The most hotly anticipated of the new releases is The Matrix Resurrections which opens Wednesday. The fourth film in the series, and the first in 19 years, is helmed by Lana Wachowski and brings back Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity. It is the final film of Warner’s day-and-date theatrical/HBO Max offerings and has a good shot at being the biggest of them, though it may be held back by theater shutdowns and restrictions as we have started to see in a few countries.
The original Matrix was an unexpected hit in 1999, and after its $27.7 million opening it went on to gross $171 million domestically and $466 million worldwide. When the sequel The Matrix Reloaded opened to $91.7 million in 2003, it was the second biggest opening ever (behind, of all films, the original 2002 Spider-Man), and it held the record for the biggest opening for an R-rated film until Deadpool in 2016. Its domestic cume of $281 million and global cume of $742 million remain the series best, and the global gross was again the best until Deadpool. The Matrix Revolutions, which came out six months after Reloaded, was a disappointment, with a $48.4 million opening, $139 million domestic cume, and $427 million global cume.
Fans have been waiting nearly two decades for another Matrix film, and in Resurrections’ early rollout in a handful of markets last weekend it ranked among the year’s biggest openings. There are a few glitches in the matrix, though. The streaming availability is certain to cut into the gross, and there is also the issue of Spider-Man taking up many of the premium large format screens. Resurrections’ box office prospects are likely closer to the first and third films than the blockbuster middle entry, at least in the domestic market. One thing the film has going for it that most recent Hollywood films lack is a release date in China, where it is set to bow on January 14.
Another sequel opening Wednesday is Sing 2. Sing was a big hit for Universal and Illumination, grossing $270 million domestically and $634 million worldwide. It also holds the curious record of being the highest grossing film to never hit number one at the box office. 2021 has yet to have an animated film even get beyond $100 million, though Disney’s Encanto may hit that in the coming weeks, having had solid holds since its Thanksgiving opening. While Sing 2 is unlikely to match its predecessor at the box office, it may be the film to break out of the pandemic era’s animated box-office slump. The film has a large voice cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Scarlett Johansson.
In addition to the sequels opening Wednesday, we have a prequel with The King's Man, taking Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman franchise back to the spy agency’s origins in the early 1900s. Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Harris Dickinson, and Djimon Hounsou star. The Fox film’s predecessors had solid $400+ million worldwide grosses with around two-thirds of the gross coming from international for the first film and three-quarters for the sequel. The prequel will have a hard time matching the earlier films given the pandemic, the more crowded marketplace (the earlier films launched in February and September), and a cast that is lower in star wattage. China was also a major territory for the first two films, and The King’s Man has not been given a release date there.
In addition to the bigger budget fare opening Wednesday, Christmas day moviegoing audiences will be treated to some new dramas that are opening Saturday. Lionsgate’s American Underdog is getting quite a bit of traction on IMDb and could itself be an underdog success story at the box office. The film tells the story of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, played by Zachary Levi with Anna Paquin playing Warner’s wife Brenda and Dennis Quaid playing Rams coach Dick Vermeil. The film is directed by the Erwin Brothers who have had success with faith based films including I Can Only Imagine.
Also releasing on Christmas day is Sony’sA Journal for Jordan, based on the memoir by Dana Canedy. The romantic drama is directed by Denzel Washington and stars Michael B. Jordan and Chanté Adams. Traffic for the film on IMDb appears soft, but its star and director are both potential box office draws.
For Denzel fans who wish to see him in front of rather than behind the camera, A24 delivers with Joel Coen’s Shakespeare adaptation The Tragedy of Macbeth. Washington plays the title role and Frances McDormand plays Lady Macbeth. The film opens in limited release ahead of its January 14, 2022 debut on Apple TV+.
Another limited release from an iconic filmmaker is Parallel Mothers, the latest film from Pedro Almodovar. The Spanish language film, which stars Almodovar’s regular collaborator Penelope Cruz, hits New York and Los Angeles via Sony Pictures Classics on Friday the 24th.
Finally, United Artists is taking Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza to 700 theaters on Christmas day. The coming of age film has racked up $1.28 million from just four locations since its Black Friday opening.