In U.S. and Canada, the Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Amblin movie starts previews tomorrow night for a Thursday opening day in an effort to capitalize on the growing amount of kids off from school during spring break and Holy week with 30% K-12/18% colleges off tomorrow, jumping to 80%/43% on break by Friday.
In the last three years, Easter weekend has pumped out some record-breaking openers including Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166M), Furious 7 ($147.1M) and The Fate of the Furious ($98.7M), however, Ready Player One is poised to ease to $40M-$50M over four days. Analysts find this VFX spectacle chock full with ’80s and ’90s pop culture references a hard one to comp (some even speculating $35M), but the hope here is that the pic overindexes stateside especially in regards to its $155M-$175M net budget before P&A. The audience response out of SXSW world premiere rattled the Paramount Theatre’s walls with critics giving it an 85% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s one of those movies that’s likely to trigger word of mouth once people watch it in the theater. Warner Bros. is known to pull a rabbit out of its hat and generate openings that beat their tracking greatly (read Dunkirk, It, Wonder Woman, and Kong: Skull Island). The hope is that Ready Player One does the same. Ready Player One will play in around 3,500 locations on Wednesday then move to 4,200 by Friday including 3D, 2D, Imax, PLFs, Dolby Cinema, Motion Seats, Luxury Seats and Drive In’s.
Overseas has a rosier picture with a day and date debut in 62 offshore markets including China, but with Japan and Germany coming later. Per industry sources, the debut is looking at a range of $100M-$120M with the Middle Kingdom the swing. Overseas comps are also tough to pin down, particularly because Spielberg hasn’t played in tentpole land for some time. 2016’s $140M production The BFG fell apart around the globe with a $183M take, but the audience response coming out of Ready Player One is significantly better: It’s classic Spielberg for both millennials and Gen-X versus the Byzantine, funkiness of the Oscar winner’s take on the Roald Dahl book. Actually, Spielberg’s full-blooded, on-fire tentpole was 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which gave him his highest domestic opening of all-time of $100.1M, and his third-highest pic overall of his career with domestic tickets sales of $317M and worldwide of $786.6M.
The fresh face cast of Tye Sheridan Olivia Cooke and Lena Waithe may not have a big overseas footprint, but it’s Spielberg who’s the draw. He was recently in London for a Leicester Square premiere (and spoke to ITV about his feelings regarding Netflix) as well as Rome to receive the David di Donatello lifetime achievement award. Italy has lately tended to embrace his dramas, and it’s worth noting that Sheridan scooped the Marcello Mastroianni prize at the Venice Film Festival for his role in Mud a few years ago which means his profile is higher in that market. Spielberg will also travel to Japan ahead of the opening there.
Mature markets in Western Europe should be solid on Ready Player One even if the property is not well-known there; it will trade off being a fresh offering in hubs where Spielberg commands respect.
The gaming aspect and Anime Easter Eggs will also count in emerging Asian hubs and in China. Pre-sales there we hear are low, but press screenings (sans talent attending) were well-received last week. The source material is not overly familiar, but Cline’s book does have a 7.7 rating on Douban. To compare to a recent WB title, Tomb Raider’s pre-sales were low and it had an opening of $40M.
Some markets are opening a day early – Scandinavia, Korea, Italy – on Wednesday, ahead of the Easter holiday. The highest of Catholic holidays doesn’t resonate everywhere overseas, however.
Also opening this Friday stateside is Tyler Perry’s thriller Acrimony, his 19th release with Lionsgate. Taraji P. Henson is a faithful wife who is tired of standing by her devious husband (Lyriq Bent) and is enraged when it becomes clear she has been betrayed. Pic has previews on Thursday night at 7PM and will play in an estimated 2,000 theaters this Friday. Production cost is in the low teens net. Acrimony is tracking between $10M-$15M.
PureFlix’s threequel God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness will vie to pull in Holy week moviegoers at 1,685 locations with a $4M-$6M start. GND faces the same problem this week as Sony Affirm’s Paul, Apostle of Christ did last weekend: Roadside Attractions’ I Can Only Imagine which is stealing the flock with a cume through yesterday of $39.5M.