Late last year, when Warner Bros. announced that its entire 2021 slate would open day-and-date on HBO Max, we marked December 22 on our calendar as the date when the last Warner’s film of the year – THE MATRIX RESURRECTION – would open, and we’d return to some sense of theatrical-only normalcy. As of now, it looks like the great Warner Bros. experiment is about to come to an end, though in these uncertain times, it’s by no means certain that they won’t continue this policy for some of its films in 2022.
The studio looks to be ending the year on a high note with THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS. After more than a dozen hybrid releases, we know that opening simultaneously on HBO Max cut into the theatrical grosses for their titles. For that reason, we can’t compare them to films that had a full theatrical release or to non-Warner Bros. titles – these films live in their own box office ecosystem.
As you can see above, DUNE, released in late October, had the studio’s largest theatrical opening of the year. To top DUNE, MATRIX will have to cross $41M. Will it be able to do that?
Looking at the four key metrics: awareness, interest, location, and fee, MATRIX easily tops DUNE.
Staring with awareness, MATRIX (dark yellow) currently sits 61%, which is well above the 41% for DUNE (light yellow) when it was released.
On the interest side, MATRIX (light blue) has a score of 6.7, which is nearly a whole point higher than DUNE at 5.8 (navy blue).
In terms of where people want to watch the film, 55% of people say they’d like to watch MATRIX (light red) in a theater (as opposed to at home). The number was 50% for DUNE (dark red).
MATRIX (light green) also comes out ahead on “Fee or Free,” 77% of people saying they would pay to watch the film, and only 23% said they would only watch if it were free. For DUNE (dark green), 73% said they would pay to watch it.
Across the board, MATRIX is ahead of DUNE, which suggests the film will have little trouble reaching $41M. But, there are several factors to consider.
WEDNESDAY OPENING – Unlike DUNE, MATRIX is opening on a Wednesday. For better or worse, the industry standard is to use the three-day Friday/Saturday/Sunday period as the official opening weekend. Grosses from Wednesday and Thursday obviously contribute to the film’s total grosses, but they are not included as part of the opening weekend number.
Event movies like MATRIX have the potential to be front-loaded, meaning fans are more likely to rush out to theaters at the first available opportunity. In this case, it’s a Wednesday. If foot traffic doesn’t carry through to the weekend, the three-day gross will be lower. Conversely, if the film generates good word-of-mouth or repeat viewing, the early opening will be less of an issue.
CHRISTMAS EVE IS ON FRIDAY – While the box office numbers are huge from Christmas Day through New Year’s Day, people don’t really go to the movies on Christmas Eve. That’s a relatively light day at the box office. It’s a stroke of bad luck that it happens to be a Friday this year. That means grosses will be lighter than usual for MATRIX on the first day of its three-day opening frame.
SUNDAY FALLS ON THE 26TH – Conversely, MATRIX will benefit from Sunday being the day after Christmas. On a non-holiday weekend, theater attendance drops late in the day on Sunday as people prepare to go back to school or work. But, for a good chunk of people, they will be out of school or away from work through the end of the year, meaning more people will go to the theater on Sunday evening than non-holiday weekends. That will help mitigate the losses from Friday night.
CHRISTMAS COMPETITION – When DUNE opened, it was up against the 2nd weekend of HALLOWEEN KILLS, and the 3rd weekend of NO TIME TO DIE. MATRX will be competing with not just SING 2, THE KING’S MAN, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN and a handful of other new and expanding titles, it will be up against week two of SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. The competition from other films will put huge downward pressure on MATRIX
OMICRON – Any conversation about the box office these days has to include Omicron. This one is spreading so fast that it could impact people’s willingness to go to the theater in meaningful ways from one day to the next. Omicron will be more impactful for MATRIX than SPIDER-MAN simply because it opens a week later and because people can watch MATRIX at home, which is not an option for SPIDER-MAN.
If Omicron starts to accelerate, the box office for MATRIX maybe even more front-loaded than without the explosive new variant. That could lower the grosses for the Friday to Sunday period.
Bottom line, THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS looks to attract a sizable number of eyeballs. What’s unclear is how much of that viewership will come from the theaters versus HBO Max. On a regular non-holiday three-day weekend, the data suggests MATRIX should top DUNE theatrically, however, these days, we need to expect the unexpected.