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Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' tops the holiday box office

Steven Spielberg notches his biggest opening in a decade, followed by another Tyler Perry hit.
IMAGE: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Ready Player One' in Hollywood, California, on March 26.Sipa USA via AP
/ Source: Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Steven Spielberg has found his way back to the top of the box office with the action-adventure "Ready Player One," while Tyler Perry has scored again with "Acrimony."

Studio estimates on Sunday indicated that Spielberg's virtual reality-focused film earned a solid $53.2 million in its first four days in theaters from 4,234 locations, with $41.2 million of that coming from the three-day weekend.

Not adjusted for inflation, it's Spielberg's best opening in a decade following "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which launched with $100.1 million in 2008. Aside from "The BFG," Spielberg has lately favored smaller historical dramas instead of the big-scale blockbusters of his heyday.

Based on Ernest Cline's popular novel and chock-full of references to 1980s pop culture, including some nods to Spielberg's own films, "Ready Player One" is a return to the popcorn filmmaking that he became known for. That includes a reportedly hefty $175 million price tag, which doesn't account for marketing costs.

Audiences gave the film an A- CinemaScore, and reviews have been warm, too (it's sitting at a 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Those who turned out over the weekend were mostly male (59 percent) and over 25 (56 percent).

"It's great to be in the Steven Spielberg business," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution. "We always believed that this movie itself would carry the day, and that's really what happened. We've seen all around the globe that the word of mouth is really propelling it."

Goldstein said that while advance ticket sales were solid, the walk-up business was particularly robust on Friday and Saturday.

Internationally, the film exceeded the studio's expectations, with $128 million from 62 territories, including $61.7 million from China (the biggest-ever opening in the country for Warner Bros.). Worldwide, it grossed $181.3 million.

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for ComScore, said "Ready Player One" should be judged in the context of the marketplace, which is down significantly (24.1 percent) from last March and has seen nearly every film since "Black Panther" open in the "middling to good range."

"None of them have set the world on fire," Dergarabedian said. "We're living in a world where a $52.3 million gross for the first four days is a really good number."

"Tyler Perry's Acrimony" took second place. Driven by an overwhelmingly female audience, the film, starring Taraji P. Henson, grossed $17.1 million over the three-day weekend, followed by "Black Panther" in third place, with $11.3 million.

With $650.7 million in domestic grosses, "Black Panther" is poised to pass "Jurassic World's" $652 million to become the fourth-highest-grossing domestic release of all time.

A batch of faith-based films also competed for attention leading up to Easter, including "I Can Only Imagine," which scored again, with $10.8 million, to take fourth place. It outshined "Paul, Apostle of Christ," which earned $3.5 million in weekend two, and the new opener "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness," which stumbled, with $2.6 million. Even Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs," playing in only 165 locations, beat "God's Not Dead 3," with $2.8 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. "Ready Player One," $41.2 million ($128 million international)
  2. "Tyler Perry's Acrimony," $17.1 million
  3. "Black Panther," $11.3 million ($7.7 million international)
  4. "I Can Only Imagine," $10.8 million ($200,000 international)
  5. "Pacific Rim Uprising," $9.2 million ($31.4 million international)
  6. "Sherlock Gnomes," $7 million ($2.5 million international)
  7. "Love, Simon," $4.8 million ($1.6 million international)
  8. "Tomb Raider," $4.7 million ($12 million international)
  9. "A Wrinkle in Time," $4.7 million ($4.8 million international)
  10. "Paul, Apostle of Christ," $3.5 million