Los Angeles Times

From 'Black Panther' to 'Ready Player One': Hollywood places big bets on spring as the new launching point for blockbuster titles

For more than 40 years, Steven Spielberg's movies have followed a simple, binary release strategy. Without exception, his films have either opened in the summer - a moviegoing season he all but invented with the 1975 smash "Jaws" - or toward the end of the year as awards buzz is heating up. The formula is so predictable, you can almost set a watch by it.

Yet when executives at Warner Bros. sat down with the director to discuss the release plan for his latest film, the big-budget sci-fi-action epic "Ready Player One," they had something different in mind. Set in a near-future dystopia in which people live much of their lives in a virtual-reality realm called the OASIS, Spielberg's adaptation of Ernest Cline's bestselling novel has all the bells and whistles of a big, fun summer movie.

But the studio wanted to open it in March - a

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