The Matrix Resurrections Crosses $100 Million At The Box Office, But It's Still A Major Disappointment

Even just a handful of years ago, if Warner Bros. had said a fourth "Matrix" movie was happening, it would have seemed like the biggest deal on the planet. And, for a time, when the movie that became "The Matrix Resurrections" was initially coming together, it did, indeed, seem like a huge deal. But 1999 was a long time ago and the peak popularity of this important sci-fi franchise is a thing of the past. 

Case in point, the latest entry in the series, directed by Lana Wachowski, has crossed $100 million at the box office as of this weekend. It's a milestone, yes, but one that ultimately cements this as a disappointment rather than a success. And it may even go in the books as a cautionary tale for the future as studios continue to grasp at straws to put meat in seats. Let's have a closer look at the numbers.

A Mostly Meaningless Milestone

As of this writing, "The Matrix Resurrections" has earned a total of $106 million worldwide, which includes $3.8 million domestically from its most recent weekend. In total, it has earned $30.9 million in North America, to go along with $75.1 million internationally. That represents about a 30/70 split, which is significant. There is almost no question a big part of that has to do with the fact that the movie is currently available to stream free of charge to HBO Max subscribers in the U.S., as was the case with every Warner Bros. movie in 2021.

The biggest problem, in this case, is that the movie cost a staggering $190 million to produce, which doesn't account for marketing. That means, if we're being very generous, it probably needed to make close to $400 million just to break even. Granted, in this case, there is some value provided to WarnerMedia via the HBO Max numbers, but certainly not enough to make up the difference. With "Resurrections" losing ground fast at the domestic box office, it's going to have to rely heavily on international markets.

Perhaps the only silver lining is that this will be one of few Hollywood blockbusters to get a release in China, which is happening on January 14. As the biggest moviegoing market in the world right alongside the U.S., this could be the saving grace Warner Bros. needs. On the extreme end, "Godzilla vs. Kong," another Warner Bros. release from 2021, earned $467 million worldwide, including $100.5 million in the U.S. despite the HBO Max release. But in China? It earned a monstrous $188.7 million. 

Does "The Matrix Resurrections" have a shot at breaking that big in China? Probably not, but it could help mitigate the losses. All of this to say, a movie making $100 million at the box office right now is not insignificant, it's a meaningless milestone in this case, as this is going to go down as a loss for the studio. No two ways about it.

What Went Wrong?

So, what went wrong here? First and foremost, the hybrid release strategy cuts into box office earnings. End of story. If "Matrix Resurrections" had gotten an exclusive theatrical release bringing things closer to a 50/50 domestic/international split, the movie might get closer to that $400 million number that would save it from losing a lot of money. Though just how much closer is kind of up in the air, given that the response to the movie has been mixed, to put it mildly.

The movie currently holds a 64% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes to go with a 63% audience score. While that's not outright bad, it's not suggesting that buzz is building in a must-see sort of way, as we've seen with "Spider-Man: No Way Home" in recent weeks. Or, even circling back to Warner Bros., as we saw with "Dune" last year. Word of mouth didn't do this one any big favors. It also didn't help that "Resurrections" was released just one week after "No Way Home," another action-oriented genre film, which has been massively dominating the box office and over the weekend became one of the top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time, domestically.

Another issue is the fact that "The Matrix Revolutions" was released way back in 2003, meaning the franchise has been dormant for nearly two decades. Not to mention that the response to the original sequels to "The Matrix" was not all that great. Case in point, "The Matrix Reloaded" did gangbusters business ($738 million), but the response to that film and a lack of praise for the follow-up saw "Revolutions" earn significantly less ($427 million). While the sequels have their defenders, it is still "The Matrix" that has carried the franchise's legacy on its back for more than 20 years. Legacy sequels are tough to pull off, with "Incredibles 2" ($1.24 billion) and "Jurassic World" ($1.67 billion) serving as exceptions, not the rule in that department.

Lastly, and this is something I've monologued about a great deal before, that budget is a problem. $190 million is more than a lot of Marvel movies cost, and that all but guarantees that a movie needs to earn a ridiculous amount of money to be successful. Similar to what happened with "Blade Runner 2049," the financial burden placed upon this movie by its budget makes things exceedingly difficult. Granted, in this case, it's a sequel within a successful franchise, but the main point stands. Inflated budgets, especially in the modern marketplace, are a huge problem and studios need to find a way to tighten the pursestrings on some of these franchise flicks.