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Ready Player One, the massive pop culture mashup adventure movie is set to debut at the end of March, but just how many people are excited to see this one? The box office estimates are telling an interesting story. The movie is currently tracking to see an opening of between $45 and $55 million, which, while being solid, is not the massive opening that the film really needs to be considered a success.
The number is also a bit smaller than it seems because Ready Player One is set to open on Thursday, March 29, rather than Friday, meaning that $55 million total is over a four-day stretch, rather than three. Variety reports the number would still be Steven Spielberg's biggest opening weekend since the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is certainly good to see, but with RPO having an estimated budget of somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million when both production and marketing costs are considered, the film needs to be big to not be considered a failure.
On the plus side, there's still time for the buzz around this one to build, so its possible things could change. There is clearly interest, but that interest seems to be mostly male with female moviegoers so far not all that excited. That isn't too surprising. The novel Ready Player One is very much the story of a male nerd with an obsession with pop culture. There's only one female character of note in the book and she's...not handled well. Trailers for Ready Player One do appear to indicate that female characters will be a bigger part of the movie, those roles that do exist seem to be expanded, but they're still an obviously small part of the overall story.
The other issue that Ready Player One has is that so much of its plot is based on existing pop culture, that to enjoy it you obviously need to be able to get all the references. In the book, those references are almost exclusively tied to the 1980s, meaning that an older movie audience is going to be the one that "gets it." We have seen more current references in the trailer as well, such as characters from current video game hit Overwatch appearing, but it's unknown exactly how much of the story is being adapted to appeal to a wider audience.
On the plus side, Ready Player One does have time to make money. While it originally had a three-week stretch before another major studio release came out, the release date shift from Avengers: Infinity War, which in turn caused Dwayne Johnson's Rampage to move up a week, means that it will only have two weekends to have major cinema attention. Still, if the movie is good, then reviews and word of mouth may drive audiences who were initially skeptical to check this one out.