‘Ready Player One’ Is the Box Office High Score Spielberg Needed

Director notches first No. 1 weekend since 2008 with sci-fi action flick.

April 1, 2018 1:17 pm

Director Steven Spielberg hit the reset button with his video-game themed film, Ready Player One.

The Warner Bros. film adaptation of the popular sci-fi novel about a poor teen competing in a life-and-death battle against a vicious corporation to control a virtual reality world took the top spot at the box office with 41.2 million in 4,234 theaters over the weekend. (It earned $53.2 million since it opened Thursday.) Not exactly Black Panther numbers, but the win gave the 71-year-old Hollywood icon the kind of much-needed win that proves he can still move as much popcorn as he can prestige.

This is Spielberg’s first No. 1 weekend at the box office since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in May 2018.

“Spielberg holds a such renowned place in our hearts and minds, and he set the bar so high earlier in his career, that as he started diversifying the box office definitely faltered a bit,” Paul Degarabedian, senior box office analyst for ComScore, told RealClearLife.

“But this puts him back in his sweet spot, with a sci-fi movie. This is good news for Spielberg and it’s good news for an industry that’s been depressed in March.”

Despite a resume that includes E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark— four of the top 21 films of all time, when adjusted for inflation — Spielberg has only crossed the $100 million mark once, with 2012’s Lincoln, in the ten years since he made the last Indiana Jones installment. 

That’s a high barometer, of course. But his last attempt at a movie for younger audiences, 2016’s The BFG, fizzled, a seeming anachronism in an era in which kids’ attention is dominated by Star Wars and superheroes.

Spielberg wasn’t the only one who needed to sell tickets. The overall box office, despite the historic run of Black Panther, finished March 24 percent lower than March 2017.

“A lot of the films that came out (this March)  didn’t get to have a month of buzz building that big releases usually get,” said Dergarabedian. “Because of all the attention on Black Panther, a lot of these films have had a very short window to make an impression on audiences.”

Finishing in second place was the weekend’s other big debut — Tyler Perry’s Acrimony — which opened with  $17.1 million.  Lionsgate’s R-rated drama, starring Taraji P. Henson, spooled in 2,006 theaters, less than half of its higher-profile competitor.

Marvel’s Black Panther may have dropped to third place, but the $11.3 million pushed the film past the $650 million mark domestically. The film is now positioned within the next two weeks to sink Titanic as the third highest-grossing film in North America of all time.

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