9:18am PT by Pamela McClintock
Weekend Box Office: Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' Heads for $52M
Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One continued to exceed expectations on Friday, grossing $15.2 million for a projected four-day debut of $52 million over Easter weekend, including roughly $40 million for the three-day weekend.
The big-budget film opened on Thursday to get a jump on Easter weekend and take advantage of some kids being out of school. So far, it is skewing heavily male (at least 65 percent), with 68 percent of ticket buyers under the age of 35. Audiences bestowed the film with an A- CinemaScore.
Ready Player One will easily top the chart in its launch, and will be Spielberg's biggest opening since the last Indiana Jones movie, which launched to $100.1 million in summer 2008.
The sci-fi adventure — which marks Spielberg's return to popcorn fare — is a big gamble, considering it cost Warners and Village Roadshow an estimated $175 million to produce before marketing. It also launches in numerous major foreign markets timed to its U.S. bow, including China. Overseas, the film is exceeding expectations in China, where its Friday-Saturday tally is an estimated $39.2 million for an early foreign total of $81.8 million and global total of $109 million.
The movie, based on Ernest Cline's pop-culture-soaked novel about a teen's quest to win control over a virtual universe, will need to do sizable business over the course of its run to land in the black.
Spielberg remains one of Hollywood's most respected directors. Ready Player One is the first film he has made for Warners since A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which was released in 2001.
Infused with references to the 1980s, Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, a young man who gets caught up in the virtual-reality world known as the OASIS, which was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Watts and his friends are determined to find the Easter eggs that will give them control of OASIS.
Spielberg directed from an adapted script by Zak Penn and Cline. Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller and Simon Pegg also star.
Acrimony, starring Taraji P. Henson, Lyriq Bent, Jazmyn Simon and Crystle Stewart, is likewise doing well, earning $7.3 million on Friday from 2,006 theaters for a projected $16 million-$18 million weekend. The movie likewise nabbed an A- CinemaScore.
God's Not Dead 3 is another story. The threequel may not open to much more the $3 million-$4 million from 1,693 theaters, putting it behind box-office sensation I Can Only Imagine, which looks to place No. 4 with roughly $10 million. It could also lose to holdover Paul, Apostle of Christ.
Among other holdovers, Black Panther continues to hold in. The movie is expected to place No. 3 with roughly $11 million for a domestic north of $650 million.
Rounding out the top five is Pacific Rim Uprising, which is tumbling a steep 67 percent to an estimated $9.3 million for a domestic total of $45.8 million.
March 29, 12:15 p.m. Updated with weekend estimates.
March 30, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Thursday grosses.
March 31, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses.