Matrix Scores Online

Thanks to an online ad blitz, The Matrix: Reloaded has been a hit not only at the box office but on the Web as well.

According to figures compiled by Nielsen//NetRatings, the movie’s opening week saw traffic to the official Warner Bros. The Matrix Web site jumped 143 percent. During the week, the site attracted 483,000 at-home users, compared to 199,000 in the previous week.

Although Reloaded showed some box-office weakness in its second week, the movie retained its Web interest. The Matrix moved from No. 17 to No. 3 on the Yahoo Buzz Index, and The Matrix: Reloaded moved from No. 23 to No. 5. The Buzz Index gauges interest in current news and culture through Yahoo Search activity.

The release of the second of The Matrix trilogy was accompanied by an unprecedented ad push by Warner Bros., featuring co-branded commercials with Heineken and Samsung. In addition, the movie studio pushed the movie with online ads running prominently on sites like Yahoo. According to AdRelevance, a unit of Nielsen//NetRatings, The Matrix: Reloaded had 3.3 million ad impressions during the two weeks leading up to its debut.

Heineken, for example, ran online ads offering users the chance to see Matrix clips from the Heineken site, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and interviews with members of the film’s cast and crew. The beer maker has a contest running in May to win one 150 pair of Matrix sunglasses. The site also offers those over 21 the chance to opt in to the Heineken mailing list.

Thanks to a trailer tacked on the end of Reloaded, Matrix fans got a peak at the last installment of the trilogy, Revolutions, due out in November. According to Yahoo’s search data, queries for the upcoming movie rose 796 percent during the week.

The efforts are part of studios attempts to keep moviegoers short attention spans. Despite recording nearly $92 million in its opening weekend, Reloaded‘s box office receipts fell 60 percent over the Memorial Day weekend to $36.8 million.

Studios will continue to cast their lot with building movie brands online, according to Gary Stein, an analyst with Jupiter Research, which is owned by the parent company of this site.

“Each one of these movies is a brand in and of itself,” he said. “With the Internet and that franchise thinking, you never get down to that low level” of audience interest.

By developing animated Matrix short films and a video game, Stein said Warner Bros. could keep interest and awareness of the Matrix brand alive beyond when the lights go on at the theater.

Studios are already making the Internet a key part of their marketing drives for movies. Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, a former Warner Bros. executive, has said that Yahoo’s front page has become a “must-have” for movies before their opening weekend. Yahoo has struck deals with a number of studios to promote their big releases.

With Hollywood in full swoon over franchise pictures like The Matrix, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, a full-court marketing press with interactive component will likely accompany this summer’s other big releases, such as The Hulk, Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machine, and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

In anticipation of the Charlie’s Angels release in late June, Sony Pictures two weeks ago rolled out a Web site to carry six-episode series of animated shorts, AnimatedAngels.com, with the premiere of a new two-to three-minute short every week leading up to the movie’s release.

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