In case you’ve been living in a parallel universe, you know that directors Larry and Andy Wachowski’s long-anticipated sequel The Matrix Reloaded whirls into a record number of theaters this week. The Warner Bros.’ release gets a special 10 p.m. screening in most cities, before its official opening tomorrow, May 15. You should check the listings before you head to the theaters, because our sources tell us that many of tonight’s shows are already sold out.
Some 3,603 theaters are ready to show a record 8,517 prints of the film, which reunites the original’s Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie Ann-Moss. This playdate count is seen as the highest ever for an R-rated film and trails only the record 3,741-theater launch of 20th Century Fox’s X2: X-Men United, which enters its third weekend with a print run just under 8,000. The Matrix Reloaded screen count outpaces even last December’s then-record 8,515-print run for Warners’ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, according to Variety.
It’s interesting to note that the original Matrix brought in a $27.8 million opening in March 1999 as part of a $171.4 million total domestic take. Although the sequel cost about $150 million (and another $150 million for the third installment scheduled for November), the critics have issued mostly lukewarm reviews of the film so far. Although most praise the look and the special effects glories of the picture, they are quick to report that the story lacks sizzle and the love scenes between Keanu and Carrie-Ann are, uh, totally bogus, man. As Glenn Kenny writes in Premiere magazine, “If you think the grand passion of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala is hampered by limp dialogue and indolent execution, well, Neo and Trinity make those two look like Tristan and Isolde (or even Han Solo and Princess Leia) by comparison.” Ouch, dude.
You’ve got to feel a bit worried for Miramax, which is also opening Pokemon Heroes, the latest installment of the worn-out anime franchise in 200 locations this weekend.