Why 'The Matrix' Reloaded and 'Revolution' came out in the same year
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were released just six months apart in 2003. That's why they have such a unique distribution strategy.
The first two sequels to Lily and Lana Wachowski's seminal sci-fi films The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were released in 2003. Typically, sequels to Hollywood blockbusters take at least a few years to be released, but that's not the case with the Matrix franchise. The Matrix Reloaded (May 2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (November 2003) were released just six months apart. In fact, The Matrix Reloaded was only released on DVD three weeks before The Matrix Revolutions was released worldwide.
The theatrical release of The Matrix Revolutions in particular is a big gamble. In stark contrast to a typical film release, Neo's swan song premiere, The Matrix Revolutions, was released simultaneously in more than 100 countries around the world (approximately 14:00 GMT 5 November 2003). This kind of simultaneous release has never been attempted before. The distribution strategies of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were extremely risky for the Warner Bros. studio that financed the Matrix sequels.
The Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions Filmed Back-To-Back
In order for both sequels to be released in 2003, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were filmed back-to-back. main Photography for both films took more than a year, between March 2001 and August 2002. One of the action scenes, The Matrix Reloaded's Burly Brawl, in which Neo (Keanu Reeves) fights a horde of replicas of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), was shot for nearly a full month and $40 million shooting costs. This is due to the extensive use of motion capture and CGI to achieve the sequences.
2003 Was A Bigger Year For The Matrix Than Just Reloaded & Revolutions
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were not the only entries in the series released in 2003. Wachowskis planned a multimedia distribution strategy for the Matrix series, including video games, comic books, and a series of animated shorts titled The Animatrix, which was released in 2003 alongside two major feature films. Animatrix was released on DVD and VHS in June 2003, between the release dates of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Animated by a series of highly regarded Japanese animation companies, Animatrix is an anthology of stories that involve The Matrix in some way. Some, like The Final Flight of Osiris, fit directly into the plot of The Matrix Reloaded, while others, like The Second Renaissance Parts I and II, provide a counterpoint to the A fictional history of the real world, first explored in The Matrix. Animatrix's Final Flight of the Osiris was even screened ahead of theatrical release of Stephen King's adaptation of Dreamcatcher in March 2003, to generate hype for The Matrix Reloaded ahead of its May release of the same year.
The video game The Matrix was released the same day as The Matrix Reloaded in theaters. In the game, players will take control of supporting characters Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Specter (Anthony Wong), and explore the events of The Matrix Reloaded from their perspectives. The game features live-action cutscenes filmed alongside The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. While many films adapted video games at the time, and continue to do so, none had The Matrix's assets, as the Wachowski sisters were closely involved with the game's production.
Did Releasing Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions The Same Year Work?
The release of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions in the same year, and various ways to support multimedia, was a big gamble for the Wachowskis and Warner Bros. Initially it paid off, with The Matrix Reloaded becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, earning over $740 million worldwide box office. The record stood for over a decade before being surpassed by Deadpool in 2016. The video game Enter the Matrix was also a huge success on consoles and PC, selling over 5 million copies worldwide despite mixed reviews.
However, this level of success would not last a full year. Despite having the biggest opening weekend of any film in global theaters, taking in more than $200 million in its first five days, The Matrix Revolutions is set to drop significantly over the next few weeks (via Box Office Mojo). Its box office record would also be broken by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in a few weeks. It ended up grossing $427 million against a reported budget of $150 million, more than $300 million less than its predecessor. Reviews of The Matrix Revolutions were also more critical than the reaction to The Matrix Reloaded.
While The Matrix: Revolutions was clearly not as successful as The Matrix: Reloaded, the ambitious release strategies of both films had an incredible impact on future mainstay releases. The highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar, also adopted a multimedia distribution strategy, including a series of video games and books Released with the movie. Many other films have had their release dates back-to-back with short intervals between films, such as Avatar 2 and 3. 2003 may have been a relatively disappointing financial year, but the ambitious release strategy of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions had a major impact on Hollywood.