When Disney announced in January that Star Wars: Episode VIII was delayed from a May 2017 release date to December 18, 2017, it set the stage for a showdown of unprecedented proportions. Not only would it go head-to-head with Spielberg’s own sci-fi blockbuster Ready Player One, but a week later it’d also have Avatar 2 to contend with (or maybe that contention would be the other way around).
Well shortly after that shift, 20th Century Fox announced (without citing any reasons) that Avatar 2 would indeed be moved away from Christmas 2017 to an unspecified future date. And now so too will Ready Player One.
Officially citing Star Wars as the reason, Warner Bros. is now making Spielberg’s Ready Player One an Easter movie rather than a Christmas one, with a new release date of March 30, 2018. By publicly acknowledging the Star Wars effect, Warner Bros. solidifies its enthusiasm for RPO. Not only is it giving the film a legitimate shot at its best box office play, but if the studio had not given that reason it could have created a perceived lack of faith in the Spielberg project. Instead, it looks like the smart business move that it actually is.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is simultaneously showing a lot of guts – and faith – in its new Will Smith drama Collateral Beauty, by announcing that it will open this December 16th…the same day as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Co-starring Edward Norton and Helen Mirren, this likely Oscar-hopeful has Smith playing a New York advertising exec who, after experiencing a personal tragedy, retreats from life entirely. It’ll be interesting to see how Collateral Beauty performs as a counter-programming option.