NOTE: Box office numbers are as of April 22, 2018
Now that Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One has been in theaters for about a month, it's safe to say the film was a success at the box office. Earlier in his career, the legendary director was a perennial threat to break commercial records, and frequently did so thanks to blockbusters such as Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park. However, in recent years, it appears he's lost some clout. In the time between Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Ready Player One, 2012's Lincoln was the only new Spielberg release to earn more than $100 million domestically. Several of those films were Oscar-contending historical dramas like The Post (rarely ones to pull huge numbers), but even Spielberg's attempts at genre fare (The BFG) didn't do very well.
Months ago, few would have predicted Ready Player One would end up being the filmmaker's biggest hit in a decade. The adaptation of Ernest Cline's novel became embroiled (arguably unfairly) in controversy due to its reference-heavy marketing campaign that tried to push the movie as little more than a nostalgia trip. The source material itself was also the subject of much ire, with Twitter users singling out specific passages to illustrate why the story wasn't worthy of the big screen treatment. However, Spielberg defied the odds and delivered something that connected with audiences - especially on a global level.
Ready Player One's Domestic Box Office
In what has been a relatively quiet start to 2018 at the multiplex (notable exception: Black Panther), Ready Player One currently stands as one of the most successful films at the U.S. box office this year. Premiering over Easter weekend, Ready Player One won its opening weekend with a healthy $41.7 million haul and currently stands at $126.1 million for its Stateside total. The arrival of Paramount's horror smash A Quiet Place took some business away, but Ready Player One has been holding well throughout its run. Its biggest weekend-to-weekend drop-off so far is 53.2 percent between its second and third frames, which is a good figure. Ready Player One only held on to the #1 position for a single weekend, but it's been in the top 10 for four weeks in a row.
The biggest factor behind this is the word-of-mouth, which was considerably better than some presumed going in. Early reactions following Ready Player One's surprise screening at SXSW were mostly positive, with many critics feeling it was a return to old school Spielberg fun. The social media responses turned into full reviews that made Ready Player One the latest in a growing line of Spielberg films to be Certified Fresh. As he's done previously in his career, Spielberg elevated a subpar book into something that was more special, hitting viewers with an emotional punch about the real Easter eggs we make in life. Some felt he didn't explore the themes of pop culture fandom as deeply as he could have, but most were in agreement it made for an entertaining time at the movies.
Ready Player One was also well-placed on the release calendar, coming out long after Black Panther had rewritten the record books. This past March looked like a summer month at the outset, with several genre pictures vying for ticket sales. Unfortunately, many of these disappointed because of lackluster reviews. The likes of A Wrinkle in Time ($93.6 million total), Tomb Raider ($56.4 million total), and Pacific Rim Uprising all struggled to make an impact at the box office and faded relatively quickly. Yes, Uprising was the one to finally unseat Black Panther on the weekend charts, but its $28.1 million opening was far less than the original's $37.2 million debut. To date, the sequel has made only $58.6 million domestically, so it obviously wasn't in much demand. Ready Player One was able to take advantage of weak competition, which only increased its overall appeal.
While it's great to see Spielberg can still make a crowd-pleasing movie (especially since Indiana Jones 5 is next), it became clear Ready Player One was going to need some help from the overseas market to become profitable. The $126.1 U.S. haul is good enough for third place on the 2018 charts so far, it wasn't enough to recoup the reported $175 million production budget. Thankfully, international audiences came out in full force to push Spielberg's latest into the black.