Box Office Preview

'Matrix' Loaded

Which records will ''Matrix Reloaded'' break? The most anticipated sequel since ''Ernest Goes to Camp'' opens on 8,500 screens -- the most ever

Hugo Weaving, Keanu Reeves, ... | THE (NUMBER) ONE Neo and the evil Agent Smith will easily take down the competition
THE (NUMBER) ONE Neo and the evil Agent Smith will easily take down the competition
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The time has come. Action fans can finally quit drooling, as ''The Matrix Reloaded'' has landed in multiplexes poised for a record-breaking opening weekend.

So how record-breaking are we talking about here? Well, ''Spider-Man'''s $114.8 million three-day figure is probably untouchable, thanks to ''Matrix'''s R rating and the fact that its first full day of release was a Thursday instead of a Friday. But audience excitement for a sequel has rarely, if ever, reached this level, so ''Hannibal'''s R-rated record opening of $58 million is toast.

And ''Matrix,'' which opens on an all-time-record 8,500 screens, will top ''X2'''s $85.6 million. Expect ''Reloaded'' to gross $95 million over the three-day weekend. Add that to the $35 million it likely earned on Wednesday night and Thursday, and you've got a grand total of $130 over its first four days.

''X2: X-Men United,'' meanwhile, should have no problem scoring second place even though it's falling fast from its debut two weeks ago. After grossing $40 million last weekend, it should fall another 50 percent to $20 million, bringing its total past $175 million.

For the No. 3 spot, Eddie Murphy's ''Daddy Day Care'' will see a smaller drop of about 35 percent to $18 million.

The week's other new wide release is the old-fashioned romance ''Down With Love,'' starring the ultra-charming pair of Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. This one screams ''counterprogramming.'' And while it's not even on the radar for the average teenage boy, many women are counting down the hours until this one reaches their local theater. ''Down'' should rack up about $12 million over the weekend, good enough for fourth place.

''The Lizzie McGuire Movie,'' featuring tween star Hillary Duff, should place a distant fifth with about $4 million. We're betting even Lizzie herself is more excited about ''The Matrix Reloaded.''

Originally posted May 15, 2003