Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One is outperforming every other Warner Bros. movie in China. The film - starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, and more - is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, who co-wrote the movie's screenplay alongside Zak Penn (The Avengers). And while the movie faced a great deal of skepticism leading up to its release, it has since pulled through with critical acclaim and has found box office success, at least internationally.
Aside from the obvious, one of the things that sets Spielberg movies apart from the crowd is that they have great staying power, accumulating their grosses over a long period of time, not just over their opening weekend. That's evident by the fact that Ready Player One's box office gross only dropped 40% in its second weekend. And while that's certainly impressive, what's even more intriguing is how well the movie is performing overseas, especially in China - the world's second-largest moviegoing market.
Deadline reports that Ready Player One added an estimated $42 million to its box office gross from China, thus bringing its total in the country to a whopping $161.3 million. That makes it both the biggest Hollywood release this year (so far) in China as well as Warner Bros.' highest-grossing release ever. And with an additional $25 million from U.S. theaters, Ready Player One has grossed a total of $391.3 million thus far, well on its way to breaking $400 million within the next few days and perhaps even $500 million within another week or so.
It's clear that Ready Player One is doing well overseas. The question is, what's driving audiences to see Spielberg's latest in China? It could be that the filmmaker resonates well with Chinese audiences, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The filmmaker's last non-biopic movie, The BFG, pulled in only $21 million in the Asian country, whereas 2011's The Adventures of Tintin supposedly didn't even release there (as there aren't any box office numbers for it). Going back even further, though, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn't release in China either, but War of the Worlds did - and that reportedly only grossed $6.5 million. So, Ready Player One's success could be attributed to its story, its pop culture references, or simply its focus on a virtual world. Plus... it's fun.
This also goes to show the increasing disparity between what films work well domestically and what works well internationally, especially in China. In recent years, movies such as Duncan Jones' Warcraft and Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim performed poorly in the United States but were effectively "saved" by Chinese audiences. And what's interesting about those two examples is that they were both produced by Legendary Entertainment, which was acquired by the Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group in 2016. That's why Pacific Rim Uprising was made and even filmed primarily in China.
Comparing Ready Player One's numbers in China to standard blockbusters like Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which pulled only $42.5 million out of $1.332 billion from China) and Black Panther ($105 million so far after four weeks), and the incongruity really starts to shine. While Ready Player One may possibly earn more than $200 million in China in the coming weeks, it has yet to cross the $100 million domestically. Still, it sure looks like the film is on its way to box office success. Perhaps that means Ready Player Two will happen sooner or later.