LOS ANGELES (NYTimes) - Steven Spielberg aced his test.
Ready Player One, a nostalgia-soaked science-fiction adventure that marked a high-wire attempt by Spielberg, 71, to return to his crowd-pleasing roots, arrived to US$53.2 million (S$70 million) in ticket sales over the four-day Easter weekend in North America.
Overseas audiences chipped in an additional US$128 million, with Chinese ticket buyers turning out in particular force.
Those results, boosted by Imax and other premium-priced, large-format screenings, easily make Ready Player One the No. 1 movie in the world.
Going into the weekend, box office analysts had feared that it might arrive to as little as US$38 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada. Its stars, Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke, are not household names.
Its storyline - teenagers in a dystopian future search for treasure inside a virtual-reality world called the Oasis - was exceedingly difficult to explain in marketing materials, especially without resorting to spoilers.
And, not a sequel or remake, Ready Player One did not have a built-in fan base beyond readers of the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline from which it was adapted.
That essentially left Ready Player One resting on Spielberg's shoulders, a risky proposition even for a film-maker of his stature.
The original blockbuster king had not delivered a true blockbuster in a decade, not since Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull roared into domestic theatres in the summer of 2008 with US$118 million in opening-weekend ticket sales, after adjusting for inflation.
For the weekend in North America, Tyler Perry's Acrimony was second, collecting US$17 million, a sturdy total for one of Perry's movies that does not feature Madea, his gunslinging granny. Acrimony, a thriller, stars Taraji P. Henson.
Third place went to Black Panther, which took in about US$11.3 million, for a seven-week domestic total of US$650.7 million.