Not even Steven Spielberg can withstand the force of “Star Wars.”
“Ready Player One,” the director’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling fantasy novel, will move to March 30, 2018, which allows the film to steer clear of “Star Wars: Episode VIII.” Last month, Disney announced it was shifting the “Star Wars” sequel from May 2017 to Dec. 15, the date where “Ready Player One” was situated.
Warner Bros. may have blinked, but insiders insist it’s not running scared. The new date coincides with Easter, and there are no major movies scheduled to open in April 2018, save for an animated film from Laika, giving “Ready Player One” a wide berth. It also comes between the conclusion of the Winter Olympics and the start of the World Cup, two events that can erode the moviegoing audience.
It’s a sign of just how monumental a phenomenon “Star Wars” has become. Spielberg’s name above the title virtually guarantees a film will find an audience, but “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a box office success with few equals. The seventh film in the series is now the third highest grossing movie in history, behind only “Titanic” and “Avatar.”
“Ready Player One” unfolds in a virtual reality universe called the Oasis — a fake utopia that human beings come to prefer to the real world. Ben Mendelsohn and Olivia Cooke head the cast, and Zak Penn (“The Avengers”) wrote the screenplay.
In addition, Warner Bros. moved an untitled DC Comics film, rumored to be a big-screen version of the Flash, from March 23, 2018, to March 16, 2018. That gives it a week before Fox releases an untitled animated movie and Sony debuts a film version of “Peter Rabbit.”
The studio has dated an untitled event film from Warner Bros. on March 2, 2018, and an untitled New Line tentpole release (possibly a “San Andreas” sequel) on April 20, 2018. It’s part of a major move by studios to lock up prime release dates years in advance — and one that, in the case of “Ready Player One” and “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” can inspire a high-stakes game of chicken.