Weekend Box Office (May 16 - 18, 2003)

*** Sixth Annual Summer Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND The sci-fi megasequel The Matrix Reloaded exceeded lofty expectations to open at the top of the box office with a gargantuan $91.8M Friday-to-Sunday opening, according to final studio figures, and a staggering $134.3M since debuting on Wednesday night at 10pm with previews. That amounted to the largest four-day bow in history and the second biggest Friday-to-Sunday debut ever, after Spider-Man's $114.8M from last May. The webslinger opened on a Friday while Reloaded debuted on a Thursday with prior-night previews which took much of the business from hardcore fans out of the traditional weekend period.

Living up to the hype as the most anticipated film of the summer season, The Matrix Reloaded reunited the cast and crew of the 1999 blockbuster including Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, producer Joel Silver, and the media-shy Wachowski brothers who once again wrote and directed. Jada Pinkett Smith was among the new cast members. The first Matrix was produced for $65M and went on to gross $171.4M domestically and over $450M worldwide becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (the final installment of the trilogy set to open on November 5) were filmed together for a reported cost of $300-350M. Corporate partners like Cadillac, Samsung, Heineken, and Powerade helped to defray some of the costs and boost advertising reach.

Playing in 3,603 theaters, Reloaded averaged a scorching $25,472 per location and grossed more than every other film in the marketplace combined this weekend. With multiplexes devoting several screens to the effects-driven Warner Bros. saga, the studio was able to saturate the marketplace with a record 8,517 prints leading to a Friday-to-Sunday print average of $10,775. The film also joined Spider-Man as the only blockbusters in history to shatter the $100M mark in just three days.

Across its four days, the middle Matrix pic grossed an astounding $42.5M on Thursday (including previews), dropped an understandable 26% to $31.3M on Friday, rose an encouraging 10% to $34.4M on Saturday, and fell 24% to $26.1M on Sunday.

It also put to rest speculation that the film's R rating would prevent it from becoming one of the top openers in history. The previous record-holder for an R debut was 2001's Hannibal which debuted with $58M over three days. One notable record that Reloaded is likely to smash is the one for highest-grossing R-rated film which has been held for nearly two decades by 1984's Beverly Hills Cop with $234.8M.

Predictably, the Matrix sequel reached an audience that was 60% male according to Dan Fellman, president of distribution for Warner Bros. Those over and under the age of 25 were split evenly. "We grossed more in the first four days of Reloaded than we did in the first five weeks of the first Matrix," remarked Fellman. Plus an ethnically diverse cast made sure that all audience segments were lining up for the megahit.

Comparisons between The Matrix Reloaded and other box office heavy hitters are difficult to make because of the unorthodox move the studio took in opening it on a Thursday with 10pm Wednesday previews. Last year's Star Wars Episode II opened the same way this weekend last year, only with its first previews at 12:01am. Also, the Jedi film did not open as wide as it launched with 442 fewer theaters and about 2,500 fewer prints. While Clones generated a similar three-day theater average of $25,317, its print average of $13,338 was stronger. Over the four-day opening, Episode II grossed $110.2M or 35% of its $310.7M domestic total which includes Imax grosses. Reloaded will debut in Imax format on June 6 while Revolutions goes large-screen day and date with the 35mm launch.

Reloaded also opened in a dozen international markets this weekend and grossed an estimated $31.9M during the frame making the global opening for the sequel a colossal $167.7M, according to Fellman. Australia and France were among this weekend's openers while much of Europe, Asia, and South America will see Reloaded conquer their cinemas during the upcoming frame.

With the Memorial Day holiday frame right around the corner, The Matrix Reloaded looks to top the North American charts for the time being and should find its way past the $300M domestic barrier.

Sony's family comedy Daddy Day Care held up well in its second weekend dropping only 32% to $18.9M allowing it to retain second place. The PG-rated pic has grossed a solid $51.1M in ten days. Budgeted at $60M, Daddy Day Care should be able to become the tenth $100M blockbuster of Eddie Murphy's career.

Hit hard by Neo and pals was X2: X-Men United which fell two spots to third with $17.3M tumbling 57%. After 17 days, the comic book sequel has amassed $174.2M which still makes it the top-grossing pic of 2003 - for now. X2 needed just 15 days to surpass the $157.3M take of X-Men and looks to reach a final domestic total of $210-220M. With the overseas cume now hitting $150M, X2 currently stands with a global gross of $324M and counting.

Fox also claimed fourth place with the nationwide debut of the Renee Zellweger-Ewan McGregor romantic comedy Down With Love which took in $7M from 2,123 sites for a mild $3,298 average. The PG-13 film aimed to offer an alternative choice for adult women not interested in the Matrix behemoth but failed to make much of a dent in the box office.

Down 34% to $4.8M was the Disney comedy The Lizzie McGuire Movie which upped its cume to $32.3M. The suspense thriller Identity dropped 44% to $3.7M giving the Sony title $45.1M to date.

Sony's blockbuster comedy Anger Management followed with $3.6M in its sixth frame, off 38%, for a $128.3M total. The film now ranks as the third biggest grosser for Adam Sandler after Big Daddy and The Waterboy. Disney's Holes dug up $3.2M, down 35%, for a $56M sum.

Successful independent films playing in fewer theaters rounded out the top ten. Warner Bros. watched its mockumentary A Mighty Wind drop 44% to $1.7M for a $2,198 average and $12.1M total. Fox Searchlight's soccer comedy Bend It Like Beckham did not add playdates for the first time in its run and eased 21% to $1.4M in its tenth period lifting its cume to $15M.

Opening poorly in limited release was the animated adventure Pokemon Heroes which grossed $260,372 from 196 theaters. The fifth Pocket Monsters film averaged just $1,328 for Miramax.

Fox Searchlight debuted its European drama L'Auberge Espagnole in eleven theaters and grossed $59,315. Averaging a good $5,392 per venue, the R-rated art film will slowly expand during the weeks ahead.

A pair of spring films fell from the top ten over the weekend. The rap comedy Malibu's Most Wanted plunged 58% to $891,410 raising the total for the Warner Bros. release to $33M. The $15M project should end with $35M. Meanwhile, the similarly-budgeted mob pic Confidence has grossed only $11.9M for Lions Gate thus far with little else left to add.

The top ten films grossed $153.2M which was down 5% from last year when Star Wars Episode II opened at number one with $80M; but up 62% from 2001 when Shrek debuted in the top spot with $42.3M.

Compared to projections, The Matrix Reloaded opened very close to my $90M three-day forecast. Down With Love, however, did not reach my $13M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on The Matrix Reloaded. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they plan to buy the Indiana Jones trilogy on DVD. Of 3,224 responses, 58% said Yes while 42% said No.

Be sure to read the Sixth Annual Summer Box Office Preview.

For reviews of The Matrix Reloaded, X2, and Daddy Day Care visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Bruce Almighty and The In-Laws both open over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

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# Title May 16 - 18 May 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Matrix Reloaded $ 91,774,413 3,603 1 $ 25,472 $ 134,282,716 Warner Bros.
2 Daddy Day Care 18,880,185 27,623,580 -31.7 3,408 2 5,540 51,057,257 Sony
3 X2: X-Men United 17,301,287 40,032,160 -56.8 3,490 3 4,957 174,172,025 Fox
4 Down With Love 7,001,906 45,029 2,123 2 3,298 7,066,077 Fox
5 The Lizzie McGuire Movie 4,755,225 7,209,116 -34.0 2,658 3 1,789 32,314,438 Buena Vista
6 Identity 3,662,843 6,477,585 -43.5 2,196 4 1,668 45,070,821 Sony
7 Anger Management 3,554,771 5,738,206 -38.1 2,476 6 1,436 128,278,321 Sony
8 Holes 3,160,190 4,858,857 -35.0 2,232 5 1,416 55,960,305 Buena Vista
9 A Mighty Wind 1,692,463 3,004,214 -43.7 770 5 2,198 12,097,256 Warner Bros.
10 Bend It Like Beckham 1,372,198 1,736,275 -21.0 553 10 2,481 15,040,183 Fox Searchlight
11 Malibu's Most Wanted 891,410 2,128,493 -58.1 811 5 1,099 33,010,667 Warner Bros.
12 Chicago 572,963 1,110,568 -48.4 520 21 1,102 167,440,667 Miramax
13 Ghosts of the Abyss (Lg. Scr) 506,612 622,705 -18.6 84 6 6,031 8,449,598 Buena Vista
14 Phone Booth 339,270 1,004,617 -66.2 406 7 836 44,634,767 Fox
15 Confidence 319,508 1,539,607 -79.2 365 4 875 11,877,085 Lions Gate
16 Bringing Down the House 300,437 737,930 -59.3 399 11 753 129,128,567 Buena Vista
17 The Dancer Upstairs 279,816 270,094 3.6 93 3 3,009 802,717 Fox Searchlight
18 Daredevil 277,041 245,743 12.7 214 14 1,295 101,896,158 Fox
19 Pokemon Heroes 260,372 196 1 1,328 260,372 Miramax
20 Nowhere in Africa 244,645 250,009 -2.1 78 11 3,136 3,491,494 Zeitgeist
Top 5 $ 139,713,016 $ 87,080,647 60.4
Top 10 153,155,481 100,348,093 52.6
Top 20 157,147,555 107,080,859 46.8
Top 20 vs. 2002 157,147,555 166,512,815 -5.6

Last Updated : May 19, 2003 at 6:30PM EDT