Steven Spielberg’s Nostalgic “Ready Player One” Hopes to Salvage the March Doldrums

BOPreview33018Warner Bros. / Lionsgate / Pure Flix

Ready Player One (Warner Bros. – Amblin)

$43.2m

New

Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (Lionsgate)

$14.3m

New

Pacific Rim: Uprising (Universal/Legendary) 

$12.6m

-55%

Black Panther (Marvel/Disney)

$10.3m

-40%

I Can Only Imagine (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)

$9m

-34%

It’s Easter weekend, the only holiday that really doesn’t do much to help movies at the box office, which is a shame because this has been a fairly bad March in terms of box office, at least compared to the past few years. With schools being off on Good Friday (those that aren’t already out for Spring Break), it ends up being a big day for moviegoing, counter-balanced by Easter Sunday where business tends to be down.

ReadyPlayerOneBOWarner Bros.

Opening a day early on Thursday (that’s today!) is Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, based on the book by Ernest Cline (which he adapted with screenwriter Zak Penn), and there couldn’t be a more perfect movie for Easter weekend, because it’s a movie all about finding an Easter egg, although in this case, it’s the type found in virtual video games. The futuristic sci-fi film involves a VR world called Oasis and a group of “Gunters” (short for Easter egg hunters) trying to find one hidden inside the world that will give the winner control over Oasis.

The movie stars Tye Sheridan (X-Men: Apocalypse), Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Spielberg good luck charm Mark Rylance, Lena Waithe, TJ Miller, Simon Pegg and more, and it’s Spielberg’s return to big screen action-adventures like the ones he made famous in the ‘80s and ‘90s. This is really exciting news for fans of the Indiana Jones movies, the first two Jurassic Park movies and Spielberg’s two sci-fi films with Tom Cruise, who might not be as into Spielberg’s recent prestige and family fare.

The good thing is that Ready Player One caters to fans of Cline’s book as well as Spielberg fans, and that Venn Diagram probably has a pretty large cross-section… mostly of guys over 30. But younger guys and gals and gamers should be interested in that aspect of the film, so there’s more demand for this than some of the month’s other duds.

Spielberg’s movies are generally good for between $70 and $90 million total, although 2012’s Oscar-nominated Lincoln got up to $182 million, which is in the realm of some of Spielberg’s bigger movies. It’s been ten years since Spielberg had a blockbuster hit with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which made over $300 million. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds grossed $234.3 million in 2005 but that was with Tom Cruise, and Ready Player One doesn’t really have anyone that might bring in an audience. (Maybe Lena Waithe?)

That could be a big sticking point for some who haven’t read Cline’s book and don’t understand the appeal of the CG-heavy Spielberg film, even with the number of good reviews since the movie sneak-previewed at the SXSW Film Festival.

Ready Player One opened last night for previews, grossing an impressive $3.8 million, although I’m not sure how many people realized the movie opens today (and previewed last night). That amount should add up to an opening day of around $13 to 14 million, although I still think tomorrow’s Good Friday will be the movie’s biggest day with $15 to 18 million. It probably will be slightly frontloaded with the slower Easter Sunday, but business should pick up Monday and beyond. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the movie make around $42 to 45 million over the three-day weekend with another $13 or 14 million today, which would be around $55 to 60 million, which would not be bad at all. There are some strong movies opening the next couple weeks, but Ready Player One should do decent word-of-mouth business to end up with $150 million or more, which right now would put it right behind Black Panther for the year.

Opening Weekend Current Gross Total Facebook Likes
Ready Player One N/A N/A  218,429
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony N/A N/A 194,261 
Pacific Rim: Uprising $28.1m $33.2m  2,054,850
Black Panther $202m $635.6m  860,917
I Can Only Imagine $17m $41.6m 508,318

TylerPerryAcrimonyBO1
Lionsgate

There was a time when Tyler Perry would have a new Madea movie every year, and then he’d make a more serious drama or thriller to counter it. On Friday, Lionsgate will release

Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, a movie that will beg the question, “What on earth is acrimony?” (I know what it means. Save the comment.)

Anyway, Perry has a pretty good concept for this thriller starring Taraji P. Henson as a devoted wife who gets angry, some might even say “acrimonious,” when she realizes her husband is cheating on her. This really is a vehicle for Henson, Perry having written it specifically for her and whose popularity has grown thanks to her role as “Cookie” on Fox’s Empire. That said, her last film Proud Mary only grossed around $21 million domestically when released over MLK Jr. weekend. That opened with around $10 million in the same number of theaters in which Acrimony is opening.

Unfortunately, Perry’s last non-Madea movie, The Single Moms Club in 2014, is his biggest bomb, barely grossing in total what a Madea movie might make in a single weekend. Acrimony seems to be more in the vein of Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, which opened with $21.6 million the same weekend in 2013 and grossed $52 million total. But that kind of had a better title (I guess?) that didn’t leave people going to their dictionaries (or Google) trying to find out what the title means. (I’ve probably said this before, but there’s absolutely nothing that can ruin a movie’s chances more than a BAD TITLE!)

Then again, Tyler Perry’s name is right there in the title, and it does have “Cookie” in it, so I’d expect this to end up more in the $13 to 15 million range or even higher for the weekend, taking second place to Spielberg.

Unfortunately, last week’s Pacific Rim: Uprising is going to get slaughtered by Spielberg, because his movie is targeting anyone who might be interested in that movie. It should still be able to hold at third place over Black Panther, which might have its biggest week-to-week drop since opening. After that is I Can Only Imagine in fourth place, followed by Sherlock Gnomes and Love, Simon, as they should stay ahead of the third wide release.

GodsNotDead3Pure Flix

Being Easter weekend, Pure Flix will try to continue their successful faith-based franchise with God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, the third chapter in the series that began in 2014 with the self-released God’s Not Dead, which grossed $60.7 million after opening with $9.2 million in 1,860 theaters. This was pretty big at a time when faith-based films hadn’t really taken off just yet.

The sequel God’s Not Dead 2 opened two years later, also over Easter weekend, and it grossed just $21 million after a $7.6 million opening, which makes one wonder whether the diminished showing for the sequel should have ended things there.

Undaunted, Pure Flix is releasing a third movie into 1,685 theaters, hoping to attract some of the Christian moviegoers who have mainly been driving business for the drama I Can Only Imagine. It stars John Corbett, best known as Aidan Shaw on Sex and the City and the love interest from the Nia Vardalos hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, having appeared in variety of TV shows since then.

Last week’s Paul, Apostle of Christ ended up underperforming, though it also seems a more likely choice on Good Friday and Easter than this. Uncharacteristically, Pure Flix screened the third God’s Not Dead in advance for critics, although there aren’t enough reviews to come to a consensus just yet.

As I’ve stated a few times, I’m not a great person to ask about how a faith-based film might fare at the box office, because honestly, your guess is as good as mine, but it seems like God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness should be good for $4 to 5 million over the religious holiday weekend.

     
Rotten Tomatoes IMDb Metacritic CinemaScore
Critics Users Stars  
Ready Player One 78% N/A N/A 64  N/A
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony N/A N/A N/A N/A  N/A
Pacific Rim: Uprising 46% 55% 6 44  B
Black Panther 97% 79% 7.8 88  A+
I Can Only Imagine 68% 95% 7.7 29  A+

OutsideInBOPWarner Bros. / Lionsgate / Pure Flix

There are some specialty releases definitely worth checking out this weekend, including the new film from Humpday director Lynn Shelton, Outside In, which The Orchard releases in New York and L.A. Friday. It stars Jay Duplass as a man released from jail after 20 years there, who tries to begin a relationship with the woman who helped get him out (Edie Falco) while also hanging with her teen daughter (Kaitlyn Dever). Outside In is probably the closest Shelton has come to making a straight drama, this one co-written by Duplass, and it’s a compelling character piece.

RELATED: Interview with Director Lynn Shelton

Neon will release Aaron Katz’s Gemini, a movie that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival last year, into select cities this weekend. It stars Lola Kirke as Jill, personal assistant to a young starlet played by Zoe Kravitz, who has been trying to get out of an independent film she’s signed on for. On a night travelling to various L.A. hot spots, the two of them encounter a murder with Jill being considered the prime suspect by a detective, played by John Cho.

RELATED: An interview with Aaron Katz

Burt Reynolds returns to the screen in Adam Rifkin’s comedy The Last Movie Star, which A24 will release in select cities following a month on DirecTV through their deal. Reynolds plays Vic Edwards, a Hollywood star with similar experiences as Reynolds who is convinced by a friend (Chevy Chase) to accept a Lifetime Achievement award at a Nashville film festival.

Richard Loncraine’s British comedy Finding Your Feet, released by Roadside Attractions, is a movie in the vein of Calendar Girls and The Full Monty, which is ALSO about a woman who finds out her husband is cheating on her. It stars Joanna Lumley from Absolutely Fabulous, Tim Spall and Imelda Staunton, and it looks cute.

Opening at New York’s IFC Center on Friday (and then in L.A. on April 6) is Russell Harbaugh’s Love After Love starring Andie MacDowell and Chris O’Dowd as members of a family mourning the loss of their husband and father respectively.

Magnolia Pictures’ doc The China Hustle, directed by Jed Rothstein and exec. produced by Alex Gibney, deals with financial consultatns exploring China as a market that offers many high-return investments that end up not being profitable for those investing their money into it. It opens in select cities and On Demand Friday.

Paladin teams with Universal Pictures to release Susan Walter’s All I Wish, starring Sharon Stone as a fashion designer trying to achieve success and find true love later in life. The film also stars Tony Goldwyn, Famke Janssen and Ellen Burstyn.

Vertical Entertainment is releasing two movies this weekend into select cities and On Demand: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais’ Birthmarked, starring Toni Collette and Matthew Goode as two scientists experimenting with the whole nature vs. nurture debate with a trio of toddlers, while Scott Speer’s comedy Status Update stars Ross Lynch (My Friend Dahmer) as teenager Kyle Moore, who is moved to a new town by his parents who comes upon an app that makes his social media updates come true.

Having just premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, Olivia Newman’s First Match, based on her earlier short, will stream on Netflix starting tomorrow. It stars Elvire Emanuelle as a teen girl hardened by years in foster care who decides to join the all-boys’ wrestling team in order to reconnect with her father.

That’s it for now. Check back on Saturday morning for an update on how the movies above are faring and then I’ll have the full weekend box office report on Monday.

(Sources: boxofficemojo.com, rottentomatoes.com, imdb.com, metacritic.com. Figures represent numbers at time of writing, and may have changed. Tracking Board does not report Rotten Tomatoes user ratings for movies that have not yet seen wide release.)

  | East Coast Editor
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Still quiet here.sas

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