“Ready Player One,” director Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction thriller about a grim world where people seek escape through virtual reality, opened as the top film in North American theaters, delivering the first No. 1 debut this year for Warner Bros.
The effects-laden picture took in $41.2 million in U.S. and Canadian cinemas over the extended Easter weekend, researcher ComScore Inc. estimated Sunday in an email, easily topping last weekend’s leader, “Pacific Rim Uprising,” which collected $9.2 million in ticket sales and fell to fifth place. The only other new film opening in wide release, “Tyler Perry’s Acrimony,” brought in $17.1 million to rank No. 2.
Spielberg’s films have been highly anticipated since he set the standard for Hollywood blockbusters with “Jaws” in 1975. That’s been true for the thrill-seeking fans of movies like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and audiences that prefer more thoughtful releases such as “Lincoln” almost six years ago.
But “Ready Player One,” based on a 2011 novel, is vying for moviegoers at a time when the box office has been dominated by serial tales of comic-book superheroes and sequels to established hits, making it tougher for new material to shine. The good news for Spielberg and Time Warner Inc.’s film division is that the next big superhero picture, Walt Disney Co.’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” doesn’t open until April 27.
“Ready Player One” is set in 2045, in a world where people live in sky-high stacks of trailer homes. They seek escape from daily life in a virtual-reality universe where players race to find a hidden secret. The film features a little-known cast whose biggest names are the British actors Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg.
The film drew mostly favorable reviews, with 78 percent of critics giving it positive notices, according to RottenTomatoes.com. Heading into the weekend, Warner Bros. was in fifth place in domestic ticket sales among the major studios, with revenue of $235 million, according to Box Office Mojo, another researcher.
Analysts were forecasting weekend sales of $41 million to $47 million for the Spielberg film, a respectable opening for a movie with a production budget set at $150 million to $175 million by people with knowledge of the matter, and additional millions in marketing costs. Box Office Pro was predicting $120 million for the film’s full domestic run.
“Ready Player One” also is opening this weekend in most international markets, which have become an equally important source of ticket sales for U.S. pictures.
“Tyler Perry’s Acrimony” features Taraji P. Henson in a psychological thriller about a betrayed wife who seeks revenge. Lyriq Bent co-stars in the picture, which was written and directed by Perry and distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Weekend forecasts ranged from a low of $13.4 million at Hollywood Stock Exchange to $17 million at Box Office Pro.