After this weekend's big release, it might just be an option to retire the concept of pop culture all together. We'll have used it all up.
Weekend Forecast for March 30-April 1, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
March 30, 2018
Ready Player One is the adaptation of Ernest Cline's buzzy novel of the same name, about a Willy Wonka-ish contest set in a future dystopia, which takes a deep, deep (deep!) dive into pop culture of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It is, in some ways, Gen X Memories: The Movie. In a rather spectacular coup, it's directed by the man who created a giant pile of it, in Steven Spielberg. In certain segments of the internet, this is the film people have been waiting for their entire lives. In others, it's a poisonous, pandering nostalgia trip. So, you know, opinions vary.
Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, a teenager in Columbus, Ohio who spends most of his day, like everyone else, plugged into a virtual world called Oasis, since that's basically all that exists anymore. He, like most other people eking out survival, live in a series of piled up camper trailers called “The Stacks.” One day, the creator of Oasis announces that he's leaving the entire system to the person who can locate his Easter Egg through a series of clues that resolve around arcane knowledge about video games, TV shows and movies from a very specific time period that just happens to match up with the author's prime years, hmmmm! I said HMMMM!
As directed by Spielberg, he then embarks on a race against and with several other like minded obsessives, most prominently Olivia Cooke as a potential love interest. T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance and Ben Mendelsson also have significant roles in the film, but the real star of the show is the endless, endless pop culture references embedded throughout, as most people choose some character from past media as their avatar, and it results in a Roger Rabbit-like mashup of everything from the last 30 years.
So why isn't this about to become the biggest film ever? Well, for one thing, the focus is kind of narrow to a fairly specific age group. The book was (and I will likely earn the enmity of many of my site mates here) only average in its writing, and the trailers are a bit light on the plot, showing just blips of the references. What is does have, is hype. Lots and lots of hype, along with super passionate fans. It's something in the way of a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy type fandom, although with another decade or so of nerd culture appreciation. Opening as a rare Thursday film, it pulled in about $3.5 million in Wednesday previews, which probably puts this as a $60 million opener for the weekend.
Tyler Perry's Acrimony (“no, what's the titl... oh.”) see Taraji P. Henson on a mission of revenge after discovering that her husband (Lyriq Bent) has been cheating on her, and sets out to destroy him and his new fiancee, the woman (Crystle Stewart) who took him from her. It's the typical Tyler Perry moralizing film, albeit with a thriller angle - which, to be fair, makes this look much more like a real movie than a lot of his other effort (I am looking at you, Boo! movies). However, these films in his oeuvre have proven to be much less lucrative than his family values pictures. I am also a little tired of seeing Taraji P. Henson as a woman in peril and/or on the warpath. With not much promotion behind this film, I'd expect around $7 million.
The run of religious-themed films continues on Easter weekend with God's Not Dead 3, what may be the end of the increasingly silly self-pitying franchise about perceived religious persecution, which specializes in atheist straw men and takes the stance that non-deference to Christianity counts as being eliminated from society. It's almost literal preaching to the choir, and this one swerves at 100mph into a freeway barrier right off the bat by setting up a world in which the bombing of a church leads to... the removal of churches. When it's not busy setting up ridiculous fantasy sequences, it's enlisting Jeanine Pirro and Dana Loesch for cameos (a step up from the Duck Dynasty guys, one must admit), but this series has drifted slowly downwards, from a $9 million start to $7 million last time. The strong weekends of more uplifting and affirmative Christian films points to this as something a little out of time (and harder to swallow as possible in the age of Trump), and I'd expect just $4 million this weekend.
Pacific Rim: Uprising was the film that finally knocked off Black Panther after six weeks, with a mildly surprising $28 million debut. That's a significant drop from the 2013 version's $37 million, though not as much as you might expect given the lukewarm reception to the first film and the change in director and cast. This should follow in the giant robot footsteps of that film in dropping precipitously in its second weekend, and should see about $12 million this weekend.
This will probably not allow Black Panther to sneak past it, as it should grab about $11 million this frame, possibly cracking the $650 million mark domestically. It will certainly pass Jurassic World's total mid week and $700 million is still an OK aspirational total to go for.
An example of the aforementioned more positive Christian films, I Can Only Imagine should hold well over the Easter weekend, with around $9 million. Family films will once again be headed by Sherlock Gnomes, which started with a meager $10 million and should drop to about $7 million, while Love, Simon has shown some legs with its LGBT-friendly plot and ought to see about $5 million this frame.