The delivery guy thought something had fallen off the truck, but he kept driving through west Houston to the Tinseltown theater on Beltway 8.
When he arrived, he told theater general manager Danny Grayson to go ahead and sign for the delivery.
No, Grayson said. He was supposed to be receiving the film The Matrix. It is seven reels long, and four of them were missing from that shipment. The Keanu Reeves movie is a sci-fi action thriller that bounces between fantasy and reality, which is probably the sensation Grayson had at that point. The film was set to open the next day, March 31, and he didn't know where the reels were or how to replace them. The monetary value of the loss was estimated at from $3,000 to $5,000 -- and far more in terms of potential lost ticket revenues.
While Grayson worried, 32-year-old Chris Robinson was driving and saw a shiny metal object in the middle of Richmond Avenue. He had found a nice toolbox lying in the street once. Maybe this was another one, he thought. He scooped it up and threw it in his white pickup truck.
Robinson, a computer company vice president, returned to his office and carefully opened the octagonal container. He discovered that his treasure was four reels bearing the label The Matrix.
He tried calling the Tinseltown theater named on the container. He couldn't get through the preview recordings. After a couple tries, he left a message. The manager sent someone over at 10:30 the next morning -- opening day -- and Robinson got their thanks and eight movie passes.
Warner Bros. Pictures, maker of the film, is believed to have successfully shipped the other 20,996 reels of The Matrix to theaters nationally. A spokesperson for the company said a 20-year employee could remember only one other time that a movie had fallen off the wagon. Warner Bros. and Tinseltown could not say how the reels wound up in the street.
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Warner Bros. also sent Robinson a smattering of appreciation largess: four more movie passes and the soundtracks to The Matrix, The King and I and You've Got Mail.
Robinson aw-shucked his Good Samaritan role, saying the find would not have done him any good.
"I don't have a 35-millimeter projector. I could've strung it out across the floor and watched it frame by frame -- but I wasn't up for that."
-- Wendy Grossman