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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Matrix' Reloads for a $93M Weekend

LOS ANGELES -- The sequel to the 1999 science-fiction blockbuster "The Matrix" sold an estimated $93.3 million worth of tickets in the United States from Friday to Sunday for the second biggest box-office weekend on record.

In all, the film, "The Matrix Reloaded," has taken in $135.8 million since its Wednesday night opening.

The film opens in Russia this Thursday.

As ticket prices inch up and studios open their movies on more and more screens -- this one was on 8,517 -- box-office records are falling with increasing regularity. Yet there was no doubt that "Matrix Reloaded" dominated audience interest and ticket sales this weekend, with Thursday having been a still-better day.

"With 'The Matrix,' you had a first film that had really captured the imagination of audiences," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, a Los Angeles company that monitors movie box-office figures. "Then, the DVD of that film has acted as a marketing tool for the last couple of years. On top of that, Warner Brothers has mounted a multitiered marketing strategy to the point where you'd almost have to be living under a rock not to have known this movie was opening."

Its three-day weekend total was second behind last summer's "Spider-Man," which in its debut sold $114.9 million in tickets on about 1,300 fewer screens. The $135.8 million cumulative gross for "The Matrix Reloaded" is about $10 million more than "Spider-Man" recorded in its first four days. The totals for "Spider-Man" were from Friday to Monday, however, rather than the traditionally more lucrative Thursday to Sunday, and "Spider-Man" had no night-before preview screenings to add to its total.

As with most event films with enormous publicity campaigns before release, the opening day of "The Matrix Reloaded" on Thursday was the biggest ($42.5 million, including sales from the 10 p.m. Wednesday previews). On Friday, $31.3 million in tickets was sold, then $34.4 million on Saturday and an estimated $27.6 million on Sunday.

One record that is beyond dispute is for the best opening of an R-rated film. "The Matrix Reloaded" widely surpassed the $58 million opening in 2001 for "Hannibal." Many had worried that the R rating would limit sales of the "Matrix" sequel.

Warner Brothers plans in early November to release "The Matrix Revolutions," which is said to conclude the science-fiction trilogy. The two sequels were made concurrently at a reported cost of $300 million, far more per film than the reported $65 million spent on the original, as is often the case in such franchise series. Most of that extra money went for more special-effects sequences and higher pay for the actors.

Another big studio film that opened around the United States this weekend -- 20th Century Fox's "Down With Love," a contemporary spin on the Rock Hudson and Doris Day comedies of the early 1960s -- had much more trouble finding its audience, taking in an estimated $7.6 million over three days. The film had officially opened in one theater in New York on May 9, and then expanded into 2,123 more North American theaters on Friday.

The per-theater average for "Down With Love" was only $3,573, compared with $25,884 for the "Matrix" sequel. "Down With Love" was in fourth place over the weekend, behind Eddie Murphy in "Daddy Day Care" at $19.2 million and "X2: X-Men United" at $17.1 million.