For the first time in almost two months, "Black Panther" will no longer be a contender for the top spot at the weekend box office, according to forecasters, with Steven Spielberg's big-budget book adaptation "Ready Player One" set to dominate the Easter holiday weekend.
Industry expectations put the Warner Bros. debut title easily at the top of the weekend box office projections. The Hollywood Reporter predicts "Ready Player One" could crest the $50 million mark in its four-night debut after its March 29 wide release. BoxOffice.com's estimate is slightly smaller at $47 million, including about $3.8 million earned in March 28 preview screenings. Variety comes in lower with a forecast range of $38 million to $42 million for the wide release. However, Deadline Hollywood reports March 29 that early returns show the film could beat early projections, potentially opening in a range of $53 million to $55 million.
"Ready Player One" follows the 2011 acclaimed novel of the same name, featuring a virtual universe replete with 1980s pop culture references and a hidden key to controlling the new digital world. The movie is already enjoying acclaim with critics, opening to a 78% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of about 11 a.m. ET, March 30. However, its $175-million blockbuster budget will require big audiences for the studio to turn a profit.
Looking at other film adaptations with similar themes compiled by Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, several opened near projections for "Ready Player One," but none carried a budget as large. The movie debut of "Divergent," for example, adapted from Veronica Roth's popular novel series, reported a profit margin of almost 30% after opening to $54.6 million and recording total revenue of $431.7 million. But its production budget was under $100 million. The average opening gross for the group was $67.4 million against an average budget of $98.8 million. Each of the five compared films were profitable with double-digit margins, leading to average net profit of $296.0 million.
In "Ready Player One's" favor, it will open in key international markets in step with its U.S. debut, including China.
A scatter shot of forecasts precedes Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. debut title "Tyler Perry's Acrimony," with BoxOffice.com expecting an opening as high as $17 million, Variety looking for a low range of $7 million to $11 million and Deadline splitting the two with a range of $10 million to $15 million.
The psychological thriller compares with other Perry films as well as relationship roller coasters like "Obsessed" and "When the Bough Breaks." While Perry has had some success generating profits from low-budget films across genres, a group of comparisons compiled by Kagan showed an average opening of $19.2 million leading to an average net loss of $4.7 million. The film had yet to be rated on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 11 a.m. ET, March 30.
Holdovers like "Black Panther," "Pacific Rim Uprising" and "Sherlock Gnomes" will fill in the middle of the box office, with forecasts ranging from the high single digits to the low and middle teens.
Lastly, forecasters are looking for new installment in the faith-based God's Not Dead franchise, "A Light in Darkness," to open in the low single digits, with Variety's forecast of $5 million being at the high end. That would be a contraction from the prior two films, which opened at $9.2 million and $7.6 million, respectively. A list of Kagan comparisons saw an average opening gross of $5.5 million leading to an average net loss of $1.6 million. The film carried a 20% "rotten" rating, as of 11 a.m. ET, March 30.