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This past Easter weekend saw the release of Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, and it resulted in the director's best opening for a film since 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ready Player One pulled in $41.2 million over the weekend for a domestic total of $53.2 million, factoring in the Thursday debut. This opening bow may have exceeded expectations, but Ready Player One can't be considered a winner just yet. To be a true box office success, the film still has a ways to go and may need to somewhere between $420 million and $500 million globally just to break even.
Needing nearly a half a billion dollars just to break even is a tall order and a risky proposition. This is just an estimate, and I doubt the studio will tell us exactly what the amount is, but suffice it to say this movie needs to make money. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ready Player One cost an expensive, but hardly unheard of, $175 million. If you've seen the film, you know that every bit of that money can be seen on screen, as this movie is a true visual spectacle, and the OASIS really comes to life and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
On top of the $175 million price tag, Ready Player One had a major marketing push that upped its overall cost significantly. Despite being a blockbuster from Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One is not a known property in the way most modern blockbusters are, and its source material is not super well known or part of a popular franchise. So the choice to spend so much on the film and marketing was a gamble that if audiences were aware of and properly sold on the film, they would come out for a new original blockbuster.
While the race is far from won, Ready Player One does have some positive signs going for it beyond its domestic opening weekend. Steven Spielberg's latest flick drew in $128 million in foreign markets over the weekend, bringing its worldwide total so far to $181.2 million. The overseas take includes a $61.7 million debut in the increasingly important Chinese market, which has provided financial justification for sequels in recent years. There is still a long way to go, but the film is also riding on positive reviews (75% on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A- CinemScore.
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow are hoping for something like a Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle-like performance where the film has long legs at the box office and continues to pay down that bill. Whatever the true cost of the film, the investment will be worth it if this film succeeds. Author Ernest Cline is already working on a sequel novel, so a success here could mark the beginning of a new franchise and future box office returns. Ready Player One has a fair bit of room to work, too. The next big blockbuster is the Dwayne Johnson vehicle Rampage on April 13, but it's hard to say if it will enjoy the same kind of critical reception as Ready Player One. But other than that, there isn't much similar blockbuster competition until Avengers: Infinity War arrives at the end of the month and destroys all.