Ready Player One is last hope to salvage one of the worst months at the box office in years

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Mar 26, 2018, 1:10 PM EDT

Ah, fickle box office fortune. As March draws to a close riding out a potentially historic revenue slump, Hollywood is once again looking to a genre movie to salvage what’s left of the post-Black Panther doldrums.

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One will have all of three days to help the flagging ticket take at U.S. theaters correct its course for the whole month of March, after revenues tanked a whopping 28 percent beneath same-month ticket sales a year ago, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Through the month’s penultimate weekend, box office returns floated around $722.5 million, compared with $997.3 million through the same period a year ago. Last March saw a generous handful of genre films do their part in propping up studio returns, including Logan, Kong: Skull Island, Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell, the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, and Ryan Reynolds’ Life

Just two of those movies, Beauty and the Beast and Logan, combined to earn nearly as much during their release month as all of this year’s March films put together have so far been able to manage.

In addition to Ready Player One, this year’s lineup of March genre films has been more sparse, including A Wrinkle in Time, Tomb Raider, Pacific Rim: Uprising, and The Strangers: Prey at Night. Marvel’s Black Panther, which released in mid-February, has earned more money in its second month than any of those March-released films. According to THR, Black Panther’s revenue haul makes it responsible for “roughly 24 percent of all 2018 revenue” generated at U.S. theaters.

Early speculation from industry analysts suggested that even Ready Player One might not hit Warner Bros. box office target for its Easter weekend debut, although recent buzz surrounding the movie’s early screenings, plus a boost from its appearance at SXSW, may have mitigated some of that pessimism. 

None of that has to be on our minds, though, when we hit the cineplex to take in Spielberg’s future-nostalgic take on the virtual reality experience. Ready Player One arrives in theaters on March 29.