Neo’s new world order

Third 'Matrix' spins globe for record $204 mil preem

This article was updated at 2:46 p.m.

A carefully coordinated “day-and-date” global bow of record proportions powered Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix Revolutions” to an unprecedented $204.1 million in worldwide opening box office.

The trilogy-completing action sci-fier pulled up short of its predecessor’s opening perf in the U.S. and Canada, however, with $85.5 million in five-day B.O. since a Wednesday debut. “The Matrix Reloaded” opened with $134.3 million over a four-day frame in May.

“Revolutions,” a co-production with Oz-based Village Roadshow, rung up an estimated $50.2 million in Friday-Sunday B.O.

New Line’s holiday-themed Will Ferrell laffer “Elf” was No. 2 over the weekend, bowing with a surprisingly big $32.1 million. And Universal/Working Title’s holiday romancer “Love Actually” wooed $6.6 million in sixth place in an impressive limited opening marking the second best per-theater average among the weekend top 10 at $11,480 per venue.

Towering over ‘Rings’

In marking the biggest worldwide opening ever, “Revolutions” surpassed New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” which bowed with $190 million over five days last December.

“It’s the largest opening in the history of the motion picture industry,” said Dan Fellman, Warners prexy of domestic distribution.

But whereas “Two Towers” hung its big worldwide bow on $102 million in domestic B.O., the “Revolutions” opening was weighted toward foreign grosses totaling $118.6 million.

“We’re thrilled,” said Warners international distrib prexy Veronika Kwan-Rubinek. “It’s the biggest international opening of all time.”

Keanu Reeves starrer rolled out on 8,000 screens domestically and 10,000 located in 107 foreign territories — the broadest foreign-domestic bow in history. Perf wrested day-and-date distribution bragging rights from “X2: The X-Men United,” which unspooled in 92 territories May 2.

Worldwide bows aim to keep would-be video pirates from distribbing illicit copies of pics and also allow studio execs to maximize marketing muscle. “Revolutions” added an additional twist to the day-and-date trend by timing Wednesday’s earliest showtimes to the exact minute in various time zones around the world.

Execs expressed satisfaction with the domestic bow for “Revolutions,” which repped a per-theater average of $14,322. Perf makes “Revolutions” the second biggest R-rated opener ever, after “Reloaded.”

But the “Revolutions” opening also means the Wachowskis’ second sequel will likely fall short of the overall domestic and foreign runs posted by “Matrix Reloaded.”

“Reloaded” grossed a total $281.5 million domestically and $735.7 million worldwide. (The original “Matrix,” which saw a three-day bow of $27.9 million in March 1999, rung up $171.5 million in domestic B.O. and $458.1 million in worldwide coin.)

“This is an incredible story,” said Joel Silver, producer of the “Matrix” franchise, who put both sequels into production simultaneously. “In the same year, we put out two halves of the same movie, and this is a great day for us.”

The big “Revolutions” bow included some 60 Imax screens here and abroad.

Move marked the first time a major live actioner bowed in large-format simultaneously with conventional screens. Domestically, some 48 Imax theaters contributed $3 million in estimated opening grosses — an amazing $63,000 per venue.

Best of the rest

Elsewhere this weekend, Disney toon “Brother Bear” finished third with $18.6 million, providing a nine-day cume of $44.1 million after a Saturday bow the previous frame.

Miramax/Dimension’s horror spoof “Scary Movie 3” was fourth with $11.1 million, marking a third-weekend drop of 45% and a $93.4 million cume.

And Sony/Revolution’s Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer “Radio” dropped a slim 23% from its second weekend in grossing $7.4 million in fifth place. Sticky perf produced a 17-day cume of $36.3 million.

“It’s a very sweet hold amongst some very tough competition,” Sony distribution prexy Rory Bruer observed.

Industrywide, the weekend marked a 9% improvement from the same frame a year ago with $158 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. Year-to-date, 2003 remains flat with a comparable portion of last year.

‘Stain’ spreads

In the specialty market this weekend, Miramax expanded Anthony Hopkins-Nicole Kidman starrer “The Human Stain” by 27 theaters for a total 187 and grossed $760,627, a sturdy $4,068 per venue with a $2.2 million cume.

United Artists broadened laffer “Pieces of April” by 25 playdates for a total 82 and grossed $282,000, or an acceptable $3,439 per engagement with a $920,000 cume.

ThinkFilm broadened Christian drama “The Gospel of John” by 42 locations for a total 92 and grossed $370,000 — good news at an average $4,022 per site with a $1.4 million.

Lions Gate expanded disgraced-journo pic “Shattered Glass” by 27 theaters for a total 35 to gross $157,000, or $4,486 per venue.

Miramax widened drama “The Station Agent” by eight playdates for a total 94 and grossed $302,064, or $3,213 per engagement with a $1.6 million cume.

And Fine Line expanded Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” by 25 theaters for a total 31 in grossing $187,000, or a solid $6,032 per venue with a $413,000 cume.

‘Master’ commands next

Looking to next weekend, “Revolutions” will have to fend off an array of new pics as the busy holiday season begins in earnest. Wide openers include Fox’s Russell Crowe starrer “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” hip-hop docu “Tupac: Resurrection” and Warners laffer “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”

Execs at both New Line and U figure their pics are well positioned to further exploit their counter-programming approach to the marketplace, though “Elf” could knock heads with “Looney Tunes.”

This weekend, “Elf” penciled in a Sunday estimate even bigger than its $9 million Friday gross on anticipated family support. Helmed by Jon Favreau and rated PG, “Elf” drew auds split 50-50 between moviegoers over and under age 25 and almost evenly divided between males and femmes.

“The matinees were definitely playing family,” New Line marketing prexy Russell Schwartz noted.

‘Love’ in action

“Love Actually” — which is rated R primarily for rough language –targeted older demos looking for a bigscreen lark amid the action-dominated marketplace, U distribution prexy Nikki Rocco said.

“We’re very excited,” Rocco said. “We knew we had to come up with a strategy that wasn’t 2,500 playdates in and out. It’s not that kind of movie.”

“Love” marks the directorial debut of Richard Curtis, who penned the pic as well as previous Working Title romancers “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

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