Weekend Box Office: 'Ready Player One' Wins Easter Egg Hunt With $53M

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.
'Ready Player One'

The sci-fi adventure marks director Steven Spielberg's biggest opening in a decade; Tyler Perry's 'Acrimony' places No. 2 with $17M, while 'God's Not Dead 3' falters at the alter.

Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One — his self-proclaimed return to popcorn fare — easily won the box-office Easter egg hunt, grossing $41.2 million to score the holiday weekend's biggest opening ever for a non-sequel.

That brings the movie's four-day bow to a better-than-expected $53.2 million after launching a day early on Thursday. Still, the verdict is out on whether Ready One Player is a victory, considering its hefty production budget of at least $175 million, before marketing. It fared far better than Pacific Rim Uprising or Tomb Raider, but overall March revenue was still down 24 percent from a year ago, while the first quarter ended down by nearly 4 percent, according to comScore.

Overseas, the male-skewing film opened to $128 million — fueled by $61.7 million from China — for a global debut of $181.2 million. It is the biggest China launch in Warner Bros.' history, surpassing Batman v. Justice: Dawn of Justice ($57 million).

The sci-fi adventure also marks Spielberg's biggest domestic bow since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($100.1 million) a decade ago, helping to ease the sting of his big-budget family film The BFG, which failed to resonate with audiences in summer 2016, opening to only $18.8 million.

Ready Player One secured the second-best opening of the year so far behind Black Panther. It's also the best number for an original film from Spielberg since Jurassic Park ($47 million) in 1993, not adjusted for inflation.

Eager to be in business with Spielberg and possibly birth a new franchise, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures partnered on Ready Player One, which was based on Ernest Cline's pop-culture-laced novel about a teen's quest to win control over a virtual universe. The pic is infused with references to the 1980s, including numerous nods to popular movies (including a few from Spielberg himself).

"Spielberg is an extraordinary filmmaker and he really geeks out on this stuff. I don't know anyone else who could have made this movie," says Warners domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. "Ready Player One's opening beat expectations and now it's all about playability. It is definitely eyed as something that could have sequel opportunities. The discussion was always, 'Let's see how the first one does.'"

Ready Player One — which had a major presence at the recent SXSW Film Festival –— came in ahead of other comparable films, including the pricey miss Ender's Game, which opened to $27.1 million in 2013. Between 61 percent and 65 percent of ticket buyers were male. Imax theaters turned in an impressive $6.6 million in North America.

Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, a young man who gets caught up in the virtual-reality game 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 egg 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.

Tyler Perry and Lionsgate's latest film together, the marital psychological thriller Acrimony, bowed at No. 2 over the weekend with a solid $17.1 million from 2,006 theaters. Taraji P. Henson stars in the film as a wife determined to exact revenge on her cheating husband. Lyriq Bent, Jazmyn Simon and Crystle Stewart co-star. Nearly three-quarters of ticket buyers were female.

Acrimony, Ready Player One and Easter weekend's third new movie, God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, all earned A- CinemaScores.

That grade, however, didn't appear to help God's Not Dead 3, which opened at a distant No. 12 with roughly $2.6 million from 1,693 theaters. (It was even topped by Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, which is playing in only 165 locations.) The first God's Not Dead (2014) debuted to $9.2 million, while its 2016 follow-up started off with $7.6 million.

Instead, faith-based moviegoers continued to embrace I Can Only Imagine, which placed No. 4 in its third weekend with $10.8 million from 2,648 theaters for a domestic total of $55.6 million — surpassing Manchester by the Sea ($47.7 million) to become the top-grossing title in Roadside's history, not adjusting for inflation. The distributor added 395 theaters to the film's run over Easter weekend.

Sony's faith-based title Paul, Apostle of Christ has also faltered in the face of I Can Only Imagine. The former pic came in No. 10 in its second outing with an estimated $3.5 million for a domestic cume of $11.5 million.

Among other holdovers, Disney and Marvel's Black Panther remained a powerful force in its seventh weekend, coming in No. 3 with an $11.2 million for a domestic cume of $650.7 million and a global tally of $1.273 million. It has passed fellow Disney title Beauty and the Beast ($1.264 million) at the worldwide box office and is on the verge of eclipsing Jurassic World ($652 million) domestically to rank No. 4 on the all-time list, not adjusted for inflation.

Pacific Rim Uprising wasn't so lucky. The event film tumbled 67 percent in its sophomore weekend to $9.2 million for a 10-day North American cume of $45.7 million. The sequel, from Legendary and Universal, is a far bigger play internationally, where it earned another $31.4 million for a foreign tally of $186.2 million, including $89.6 million from China, and $231.9 million worldwide.

Uprising wasn't Universal's only offshore effort, as the studio opened Blockers in five markets a week before the movie's domestic bow. The comedy earned $5 million abroad, led by the U.K. ($1.9 million).

Sony's family film Peter Rabbit jumped the $200 million mark globally — in North America, it's the No. 2 pic of the year behind Black Panther with $110.6 million in ticket sales — as it expanded into additional markets. It continues to do huge business in the U.K., where it came beat Ready Player One to finish Sunday with $30.9 million in ticket sales.

At the U.S. specialty box office, Isle of Dogs earned $2.8 million for a theater average of $17,030, the best average of the weekend. The Fox Searchlight film added more than 144 runs in its second weekend.

And Aaron Katz's Gemini opened in four theaters, earning $34,184 for a theater average of $8,546. Zoe Kravitz stars in the mystery, which had its world premiere at SXSW.

April 1, 8:15 a.m. Updated with foreign grosses for Ready Player One.