Earlier today, Warner Bros. showed considerable resolve in plopping down its upcoming character drama Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, on the same opening weekend as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story later this year. But now the studio is simultaneously retreating, pulling Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi blockbuster Ready Player One out of Star Wars’ wake and into the relative safety of Spring 2018.
Initially slated for release on December 15, 2017, the same date as the already crazy-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VIII, Warner Bros. has opted to push Ready Player One to March 30, 2018. This is a smart move. Ready Player One is based on the Ernie Cline novel of the same name and follows the Willy Wonka-esque story of a young gamer in a futuristic/semi-post-apocalyptic Earth who goes on an Easter Egg hunt in a virtual world for a chance to take control over said world/device. The winner of the prize would be the equivalent of winning the rights to the Internet, including the ability to privatize the service or keep it free for all users. The book is loaded with 80s pop culture references along the way and is an adventure of the very nerdy sci-fi kind, meaning the audience for this movie is pretty darn close to the audience for Star Wars, and who’s not gonna see Episode VIII on opening weekend?
Initially set for release in May 2017, Disney changed course and pushed Episode VIII to December in order to A. Try and mimic the same success as The Force Awakens enjoyed over the holiday season (an idea yours truly posed in an editorial just a few weeks prior—where’s my commission, Disney?!) and B. Give writer/director Rian Johnson more time to hone the script. While Ready Player One had the date first, Warner Bros. basically had no choice but to vacate the weekend once Star Wars moved.
The new release date for Spielberg’s next film sets it directly opposite Universal’s reboot of The Wolf Man, although I expect that might shift. More interesting, this is the same weekend that Warner Bros. chose for this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, opting to begin the “summer movie season” earlier than ever before. Indeed, the new trend appears to be year-round blockbusters, but I’m not one to argue with a new Spielberg—and a return to blockbuster filmmaking for the master at that—in March.
Casting continues for Ready Player One, with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl actress Olivia Cooke and Rogue One actor Ben Mendelsohn set in key roles. While it’s a bummer we have to wait a bit longer for Spielberg’s latest, the filmmaker will no doubt enjoy the extra time to fine-tune the picture.