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Riding rave local reviews and effusive word of mouth, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One surged past the $100 million mark in China on Thursday. It’s now clear that the Middle Kingdom will prove to be the sci-fi tentpole’s biggest global market by far and will outpace the movie’s performance in North America.
After opening to a robust $61.7 million last weekend, Ready Player has mounted an impressive hold throughout the work week. As of 5 p.m. Thursday in Beijing, the Warner Bros. blockbuster had totaled $110 million, chalking up more than $17 million for the day. That’s enough to make it Hollywood’s biggest film of the year in China so far, unseating Marvel Disney’s Black Panther, which topped out at $105 million.
At the domestic North American box office, Ready Player is expected to slip into second place this weekend behind Paramount’s silent horror thriller A Quiet Place. The Spielberg blockbuster had grossed $64.4 million in North America as of Tuesday. Most analysts expect it to land in the low $20 million range in its second frame.
But in China, the title appears to be gathering steam. Thanks to a local holiday, Ready Player can be expected to climb considerably as it enters its second weekend there. Most Chinese employees are off work on Thursday and Friday for the annual Tomb Sweeping national holiday, which runs until Sunday.
Ready Player One‘s countless 1980s pop culture references have probably eluded many Chinese moviegoers, but the film’s brisk pacing, vibrant VFX and themes of VR adventure have proved a particularly winning formula with China’s video game-loving youth. The film has a score of 9/10 on both leading reviews site Douban and top ticketing platform Maoyan — which exceeds any other Hollywood title of the past year.
Although Spielberg is a hero to Chinese film buffs in the same way that he’s beloved by movie fans everywhere, Ready Player One is actually his first major hit at the massive Chinese box office, currently the world’s second largest. Most of Spielberg’s iconic early-career blockbuster output came long before the Middle Kingdom had asserted itself as a huge market for movies, and the historical dramas that have characterized his filmmaking since 2010 — Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The Post — were never expected to attract a large Chinese audience.
But with Ready Player, the Chinese finally have a Spielberg blockbuster to call their own. A 1980s-themed adaptation of Ernest Cline’s cult novel of the same name, Ready Player One follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teenage gamer on a high-stakes hunt in a VR-like video game world called the OASIS. Meanwhile, an evil corporation led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) is also hot on the trail.
The film will have the China market to itself until Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage crashes into local multiplexes on April 13.
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