After several years of prestige films and wide release flops, Steven Spielberg is making his mark on the box office again with a popcorn-munching crowd pleaser, as “Ready Player One” sits atop the box office with $53 million made on Easter weekend. That’s the famed director’s biggest opening since the $100 million start he bagged for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” a decade ago.
While Spielberg is credited with shaping much of populist cinema with films like “Jaws” and the Indiana Jones Trilogy, many of his biggest hits came at a time before opening weekends were a big deal at the box office. “Crystal Skull” is his biggest opening weekend ever, and even if you adjust the numbers for inflation, Spielberg only has three films with $100 million-plus openings, the other two being his “Jurassic Park” films.
It has been a while since Spielberg has hit the top of the box office charts like this. Since “Crystal Skull,” he has focused most of his efforts towards adult audiences, including “The Post,” a film that he took a break from post-production on “Ready Player One” to make.
Other films he’s made in this period include “War Horse,” “Lincoln,” and “Bridge of Spies,” which have earned him Oscar nominations but have not set the box office on fire. The highest grossing film of this bunch was “Lincoln,” which made $182 million domestically with a $21 million wide opening.
Meanwhile, the two Spielberg films that were meant for family audiences ended up fizzling out. His 2011 motion-capture adaptation of “The Adventures of Tintin” only opened to $9.7 million with $77.5 million grossed domestically. It was able to recover overseas, where Tintin is more popular, making 80 percent of its $374 million worldwide gross outside of the U.S.
Then, in 2016, Spielberg suffered one of the biggest flops of his career, directing Disney’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The BFG.” “Ready Player One” has nearly eclipsed that film’s entire domestic gross of $55.4 million in just one weekend, and worldwide “The BFG” made just $183 million against a $140 million budget.
With a $175 million production budget and an extensive marketing campaign behind it, “Ready Player One” still has a ways to go before it becomes profitable. But it’s off to a good start with strong word of mouth worldwide and a $181 million global start, including WB’s best ever opening in China with $81 million. But “RP1” has some steep competition in the coming weeks against films like Dwayne Johnson’s latest project, “Rampage.”
But for now, the King of Blockbusters is back.