The Matrix … Restricted
The Matrix Reloaded may ultimately win the war but it’s going to lose the battle of opening weekends, producer Joel Silver says bitterly.
The first sequel to The Matrix, which hits North American theatres a week from Thursday, is saddled with an R (restricted) rating in the United States. This will slash its box-office potential, Silver says.
The “R” rating in America is similar to Ontario’s former Adult Accompaniment or “AA” rating, and it means that no one younger than 17 in America is allowed to see The Matrix Reloaded unless accompanied by an adult.
Even though The Matrix Reloaded is the most hotly anticipated movie of the spring and early summer, Silver says it is “silly” for him to even dream that his movie might beat the all-time opening-weekend record of $115 million, set by Spider-Man last year. Silver indicated that his movie cannot even hope to match the stunning $85.6 million generated by X2: X-Men United this past weekend. The take for X2 — which has a “PG-13” rating in the U.S., thus allowing teenagers to go on their own — is the fourth-highest opening weekend ever.
“That’s silly because this is an ‘R’ movie,” Silver says of earlier hopes that Matrix Reloaded could vault past Spider-Man. “I mean, whether it should be ‘R’ or not is another discussion. But it is an ‘R’ movie and it’s not ‘PG-13’, so it’s troubling because the largest ‘R’ movie of all time is far less, about less than half.”
The best opening weekend by a movie rated “R” in the U.S. is the $58 million racked up by Hannibal in 2001. “Whatever we do over the $58 million of Hannibal is huge, a legendary figure or whatever,” Silver says. “It will be record-breaking, but people are looking for it to be much more than that and it may not be possible.”
The “R” rating from the U.S. ratings board, which issues its edicts nationally, is unlikely to be changed before the opening.
“I guess they said, ‘Science fiction violence’,” Silver says of the board’s objections.
“I don’t even know what that is!”
The Matrix Reloaded is incredibly intense and sometimes violent. There is also a love-making scene between two major characters. No naughty bits can be seen, even though the actors appear to be nude. There is also a mass dance sequence in the underground city of Zion during which female bare breasts can be seen in the distance. But there is no explicit nudity anywhere, and there is little blood-letting, even in the many fight sequences.
“It’s really weird,” says Silver, who cites less restrictive ratings in other countries as proof. In Ontario, the movie got a “14-A” rating. In Scandinavia and Germany, teens are free to go on their own. The German system allows anyone 15 or older to go, he says, “which is pretty much what we would have loved (in the U.S.).”
Despite the ratings and according to surveys, The Matrix Reloaded may have staying power that would eventually generate a huge box office, Silver says. That’s because surveys show it appeals to all four demographic “quadrants,” namely young male, older male, young female and older female.
As is the norm in Hollywood, opening-weekend box-office figures combine U.S. and Canada receipts and are quoted in Yankee dollars.
The Matrix … Restricted