Matrix's $48.5 Million Disappoints

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

November 7-9, 2003

Warner Bros execs swear that they're very happy with the numbers.

Final numbers for the weekend box office came in today (Monday), and as expected, Warner Bros. had fluffed up the weekend estimate for The Matrix Revolutions. The Friday box office number was reduced to $16.5 million from $16.7 million, and the weekend estimate downgraded from $50.1 million to $48.5 million. Accordingly, the weekend multiplier also went from 2.93 to 2.9, and can be considered a further indication that word-of-mouth is not where WB and Village Roadshow would like it to be. The second film in the series, The Matrix Reloaded, carried a 2.93 weekend multiplier.

Elf was also slightly overestimated. EDI has lowered Elf's take from $32.1 million to $31.1 million, still an outstanding take for a non-animated family film.

Everything else in the top ten stayed close to its estimate. Please check out the revised weekend wrap below for details. (John Hamann/November 10, 2003)

Sitting in the Warner Bros. war room last week, I have to wonder what studio executives thought the low-end box office for The Matrix Revolutions might be? $100 million over the five-day opening weekend? $65 million over the three-day, Friday-to-Sunday portion of the opening frame? We are back to battling expectations; you are going to hear some very negative views on the success of the third film in the series. The real question, though, like always, is whether that negative mumbling is worth paying attention to.

First, let's start with the facts: The Matrix Revolutions got off to a decent start on Wednesday with a gross of $24.3 million -- more than any film made through all of last weekend. Thursday saw a very large drop of 55%, as Revolutions grossed $11 million on its second day; the running total heading into the weekend was $35.1 million. Friday brought more bad news. Neo and the gang grossed only $16.5 million on Friday, which indicated that word-of-mouth was not great, and that this entry in the Matrix franchise would not come close to what Reloaded accumulated. On the other hand, the film has now grossed $51.8 million in its first three days with the Saturday and Sunday still to come. Last fact: The two Matrix sequels cost the studio and its partners about $300 million to make before marketing, and The Matrix Reloaded grossed $735 million worldwide. So people please, remember that Revolutions is gravy for everyone involved.

Yes, The Matrix Revolutions is obviously the number one film of the weekend, but not nearly by the landslide that we here at BOP were anticipating. My own November forecast called for an $80 million three-day and a five-day gross of $135 million. BOP's David Mumpower was slightly less bullish in press interviews, calling for a $120 million five-day gross. In actuality and beyond the box office hype, The Matrix Revolutions grossed $48.5 million over the three-day portion of its opening weekend, and $83.8 million since its debut on Wednesday. Released at 3,502 venues, Revolutions had a three-day site average of $13,844. The five-day total was 41% behind Reloaded's five-day gross, and 45% behind its three-day total. Simply put, The Matrix franchise has gone from box office superstar to Joe Schmo sequel in seven short months. On the all time opening weekends list, its three-day total of $48.5 million puts it behind other high powered sequels like LOTR: The Two Towers (open: $62 million), Mission Impossible 2 ($57.8 million) and Men In Black 2 (open: $52.1 million). To say that Revolutions did not meet the hype is wrong. This is bigger than that -- instead of disappointment, this should be classified as a very big missed opportunity.

So what happened? Why the big drop-off compared to The Matrix Reloaded? In hindsight, after the quagmire that Reloaded was, I don't think Revolutions had a chance to find the same box office success. First day sales of the Reloaded DVD didn't make headlines; industry and retail sources said WB sold about four million copies of Reloaded on DVD and video - about half of what Finding Nemo did this last Tuesday. Did WB see the writing on the wall and back off on the marketing for this one? Where was the advertising for the third film? Sure, it's an R-rated release and there are rules about where you can advertise an R-rated film, but even then marketing for this one seemed slim. I easily saw more ads for the video game Enter the Matrix than for Revolutions (which is of course an easy way to get around the blockade on advertising your R-rated film). Did WB take a step back because they knew how fan reaction would be? Reviews were not good. At RottenTomatoes, 144 reviews were counted and only 50 were positive, leading to a not-so-fresh rating of 35%. For comparison, Reloaded scored a 73% fresh rating at the site, and the original Matrix scored a fresh 86% rating. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a trend. Where Revolutions will end up is anyone's guess, but it's important to remember that these films will end up being immensely profitable no matter how you slice it. No one can say that this was a poor investment for those involved; worldwide grosses for Reloaded and Revolutions will come in around $1.3 billion with costs in the half billion range -- and that's before home video and DVD. Whoa is right.

The number two film at the box office this weekend is a pleasant surprise, but may actually have been helped along somewhat by the Matrix. New Line's PG-rated Elf with Will Ferrell got off to a great start, grossing an out-of-this-world $31.1 million. It opened very wide at 3,337 venues and had an excellent venue average of $9,322. It's impossible to know how many kids and teens bought tickets to Elf but went to The Matrix Revolutions instead -- whatever the case the parent company of both New Line and Warner Bros., Time Warner, made a smart move by positioning the two films against each other.

New Line is on a hot streak, and not just because of the stellar success of Elf. They opened Freddy vs. Jason in August, where it went on to make $82.5 million after a huge opening weekend. Then they had Secondhand Lions, which quietly made $40 million for the studio in September. In October, the studio released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is still rolling toward $85-90 million against a production cost of $9.5 million. Next month, New Line releases the film that will make The Matrix Revolutions look really bad, as The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King opens just before Christmas.

Third spot this weekend goes to Disney's Brother Bear, which was coming off a shortened Halloween gross in the previous frame. This weekend, the animated feature grossed $18.5 million in its first full frame of release, but was still short of the opening two-day gross by 4%. Common sense says that Disney was looking to at least pull the same amount this weekend as it did last weekend, but thanks to Elf, that didn't happen. Because of the strange way this film was released, its hard to come up with comparisons - let's look at how some other animated films did in their second weekend: Lilo & Stitch grossed a much-better $21.5 million in its second frame; Treasure Planet had a disastrous second weekend, pulling in $5.5 million after losing 54% of its audience; and Atlantis: The Lost Empire took in $12.6 million in frame number two. By opening its film on a shortened weekend, Disney stopped the "piling on" by the media against the company, and now looks to have a decent earner when compared to films like Treasure Planet and Atlantis. Disney seems to be guarding budget data for Brother Bear tightly, but I would bet this one cost them at least $100 million, a figure that probably won't be recouped from domestic box office revenue. Brother Bear's current total sits at $31.1 million.

Scary Movie 3 takes the fourth spot and actually manages a decent hold in the face of The Matrix Revolutions. SM3 grossed $10.8 million, down 45% from last weekend's Halloween-influenced gross. The production budget for SM3 was about $45 million, and the film should break the $100 million barrier next weekend, as it has a current gross of $93.1 million.

Fifth this weekend is Radio, Sony's manipulative drama starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Radio, now in its third weekend, grossed $7.2 million, dropping only 24% compared to the previous frame. Radio has now made a decent $36.1 million against a production budget of $35 million. It should top out in the $50- $60 million range.

Another new release holds the sixth position this weekend; this time it's Universal's Love Actually. Universal made a move similar to what they did with Notting Hill when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace opened, positioning a small romantic comedy against a major blockbuster. The move worked again, as Love Actually grossed $6.9 million from only 576 venues - giving the film a venue average of $11,979 - a few thousand better than the $31 million Elf. Look for the big U to expand the venue count next weekend as the film picks up speed heading into the holidays.

Seventh is New Line's other film in the top ten that is decidedly different from Elf, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now in its fourth weekend, TCM grossed $4.95 million, dropping 55% against last weekend's Halloween-aided gross. The horror flick has now grossed an outstanding $73.4 million domestically against a production budget of $9.5 million.

Mystic River is eighth, and is one of the few films in the top ten aimed at older adults. River grossed $4.8 million this weekend and has a current total of $40.5 million, but it's the production cost that makes this one work. Mystic River cost WB and partners only $25 million to make, and will become another profitable entry for WB this year.

Ninth goes to Runaway Jury, 20th Century Fox's take on the John Grisham novel franchise. Jury grossed $4.7 million, down 26% compared to last weekend. It's too little, too late on this one, as the production budget was $60 million and the gross so far is only $40 million.

Tenth goes to everyone's favorite comedy, Jack Black's School of Rock. Spending its sixth and most likely last weekend in the top ten, SOR grossed $3 million, bringing its fantastic total up to $73.5 million. Remember, School of Rock cost Paramount and MTV Films only $35 million to make, and should have a very successful run on home video and DVD before becoming the type of film TV networks drool over.

Overall this weekend, things were quite rosy at the box office, thanks to not only Revolutions, but more importantly to Elf, which really stole the show this weekend. Estimates for the top ten came in at a whopping $140.5 million. Last year, with 8 Mile on top, box office came in at a very strong $129.7 million, leaving 2003 on top by 9%.

Top Ten for Weekend of November 7-9, 2003
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
The Matrix Revolutions
Brother Bear
No change
Scary Movie 3
Love Actually
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Mystic River
Runaway Jury
School of Rock
Kill Bill Volume 1
In the Cut
No change



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