Next week will be crucial for 'Reloaded'
by Scott Bowles
The Matrix movies love rhetorical questions, so here is one for Reloaded:
You lived up to the box office hype. Now what?
Despite lukewarm reviews and mixed reactions from fans who were among the first to see the movie, Reloaded still managed the second-best debut ever and a record for four-day ticket sales.
Had it opened on a Friday instead of Thursday, some analysts say, it may have beaten last year's Spider-Man for best opening. (Spidey debuted at $114.8 million.)
The challenge now for Reloaded is to maintain that momentum if it hopes to catch Spider-Man's overall ticket sales mark of $403.7 million, which ranks as the fifth-biggest film ever.
Reloaded will likely know its fate this Memorial Day weekend, when word of mouth becomes more important than buzz and advertisements. If Reloaded drops more than 20% from its debut over the three-day weekend, it's unlikely to catch the web slinger.
"I think it has a chance to pass Spider-Man," says Gitesh Pandya of boxofficeguru.com. His site conducted a survey asking fans if Reloaded met their expectations. About 86% of the 2,968 respondents said it did.
"If the people who saw it this weekend are raving about it at work this week, it will give it the momentum to keep going," Pandya says.
But other surveys aren't so decisive. According to audience pollsters CinemaScore.com, Reloaded scored an overall B+ — not bad, but short of the solid A's scored by other blockbusters, including Spider-Man and X2: X-Men United.
"Matrix fans, of which there are many, are very pleased," says Brad Peppard, president of CinemaScore.com. "It's also appreciated by any young male attracted to this genre."
Females, however, are another matter. "It's not in the league of Spidey, which showed exceptionally high female strength," Peppard says. "Spidey was a great date flick. For Reloaded, you can bring your girlfriend if she's soft on Keanu" Reeves, who anchors the movie.
Short of that, he says, males will be tempted to "grab a beer and go with the boys," which would limit the film's box office potential.
According to figures from Warner Bros., which distributes Reloaded, about 60% of Reloaded's audience was male. Spider-Man's audience was roughly 47% female.
"I liked it, but I didn't love it," says Anna Stewart, 26, of Tampa. Stewart waited for more than two hours with boyfriend Kevin Brady to see the film on Saturday. "I think expectations were too high for this one since the first was so revolutionary. If this had been the first Matrix movie, I think we'd be saying how incredible it is."
Reloaded producer Joel Silver says that comparisons with Spider-Man are unfair because of his film's R rating.
"This blew away every R movie ever made," Silver says. "We could have lost a huge chunk of audiences because the (Motion Picture Association of America) decided that some kung fu violence and adult themes were worth an R."
But parents brought their children anyway, he says. "The public made this into a huge movie, despite the rating," he says. "We're not concerned with records, just whether people loved the movie."
Still, Reloaded could have owned the bragging rights for biggest debut had it gone with a traditional release, some analysts say. The studio was hoping to eclipse last year's Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. That movie, which also opened on a Thursday, took in $80 million for the weekend.
Had Reloaded opened on a Friday, when more fans are likely to take the day off, "It could have had a $120 million debut," Pandya says. "But I doubt they're disappointed with what they've done so far."