Seventy-one-year-old Steven Spielberg returned this weekend with his first true action-adventure pic since 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the box-office receipts rewarded him. Spielberg’s Ready Player One put up a solid $40 million over the three-day weekend and $52 million since it premiered on Thursday. Not only is the three-day $40 million opening Spielberg’s best since Crystal Skull, it’s the fifth best opening of his career, behind two Jurassic Park movies, Crystal Skull and 2005’s War of the Worlds. Granted, $52 million is not lights-out for a movie that cost $175 million to make, but Spielberg action movies have historically played even better overseas, so it is like that Ready Player One will eventually see the black side of the ledger. In fact, through the first two days, Ready Player One earned more in China alone — and in the rest of the overseas markets — than it has in America. It’s poised to be a successful global hit.
Spielberg’s latest has been buoyed by solid reviews (76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and it received a leg up in the word-of-mouth department after debuting at SXSW in early March (I can attest to the raucous crowd, which maintained their enthusiasm even after the projector temporarily broke during the film’s climactic scene). It’s also benefiting hugely from an audience comprised of nearly 40 percent men over the age of 25, for whom most of the film’s pop-culture references are directed. Nearly half of viewers are also turning out because they were readers of the popular Ernest Cline novel upon which the movie is based.
In either respect, it illustrates that Spielberg has still got it when it comes to action films, which bodes well as he ramps up for the next installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, which will pair him again with 75-year-old Harrison Ford.