The $150 million cyber-sequel downloaded a whopping $91,774,413 at 3,603 theaters from Friday through Sunday. That's the second biggest opening weekend of all time behind Spider-Man's $114,844,116 and ahead of WB stablemate Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone's $90,294,621.
Unlike Spider-Man and Harry Potter, Reloaded managed its massive weekend despite easing the rabid consumer demand on Wednesday night and Thursday to the tune of $42,508,303, freeing the industry's mind over what a weekday and a 10 p.m. preview (estimated $5 million) could do with its record grosses.
Showing on a record 8,517 prints, Reloaded's tally stands at $134,282,716 through Sunday, and that breaks yet another record: biggest four-day gross, swinging past Spider-Man's $125,878,901. Attack of the Clones bowed on the same day and frame last year and pulled in $110,169,231 in its first four days.
Reloaded's bow more than tripled the $27,788,331 the first Matrix opened to, putting an exclamation point on what a cultural phenomenon the franchise has become since its 1999 debut. What's more, in just four days it has taken in 78% of the $171,479,930 the first movie earned in its entire run.
"It's just sensational," Warner Bros.' executive VP and general sales manager of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein told Box Office Mojo in regards not just to the grosses but the audience reaction as well. "We were well into the 80% range for 'want-to-see' and in the 70% range for 'definite recommend' across the board. It's exactly what you want to see for a movie like this."
Goldstein said the strongest demographic, predictably, was young males. In studio exit polling, 87% of them checked off the "excellent" and "very good" boxes. Age-wise, 18-to-25 was the most potent, but overall the split was even between those over and under the age of 25. The audience skewed more male than female, 62% to 38%.
Prior to the opening, concerns were raised in the media and the industry over how the R rating would affect business -- Hannibal's $58,003,121 was the previous top opener that carried the label, and Beverly Hills Cop the top overall grosser at $234,760,478. Reloaded proved that people will see a movie regardless of the MPAA rating when the story and other elements are appealing enough -- despite protestations from Washington and declarations of carding everyone under 17.
But it's all just a little bit of history repeating. Though the production, release pattern and serialization is similar to the Back to the Future sequels, Reloaded is perhaps best likened to another R-rated sci-fi action sequel with revolutionary special effects about man versus machine: Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Twelve years ago, the $100 million Arnold Schwarzenegger spectacle was one of the most highly anticipated pictures of all time after its $38,371,200-grossing 1984 predecessor became a cultural phenomenon on TV and video (much like The Matrix). T2 bowed on Wednesday, July 3, 1991 and raked in a then record $52,306,548 in its first five days at 2,274 theaters. Its $31,765,506 opening weekend was the then second best ever, and it might have topped Batman's $40,489,746 opening haul had it not had two days of burn off. Sound familiar?
T2 went on to gross $204,843,345 by the end of its run, which would equal around $290 million today adjusted for ticket price inflation. And history has another chance to repeat itself this summer courtesy of Warner Bros. which unleashes Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines on July 2.
Breaking the weekend down, Reloaded raked in $31,330,393 on Friday, down 26.3% from its Wednesday night/Thursday opening haul. In comparison, Attack of the Clones dipped 19% from its $30,141,471 Thursday to $24,404,757 on Friday.
On Saturday, Reloaded rose 9.8% to $34,389,237, comparable to Spider-Man's 10.7% jump from Friday's $39,406,872 to Saturday's $43,622,264 (the top daily gross ever). Clones climbed 28.1% to its first Saturday to $31,253,618, but its greater increase was thanks to broader family appeal than Reloaded.
Warner Bros. projected Reloaded would ease 19.7% to $27.6 million on Sunday in its estimates -- in line with Clones's 22% drop to $24,369,439 last year -- but the actual came in at $26,054,783, representing a still modest 24.2% dip.
In a year rife with the arrival of fan favorites like The Hulk and Terminator 3, none was more anticipated than The Matrix's return, and its opening weekend will likely go down as the biggest of 2003. Reloaded has set the bar so high that the third installment Revolutions might even have trouble surpassing it, given its less explosive Nov. 5 berth and six months of pent-up demand compared to four years for Reloaded. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King will follow the same mid-December release pattern as its predecessors, effectively removing it from the top opening weekend hunt as business is more spread out over each day of the week during the Christmas season.
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