The famed rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets was not played out on the big screen, and audiences did not unlock their wallets to watch it.
Steven Spielberg’s version of the iconic musical “West Side Story” bombed at the box office, with only $10.5 million from 2,820 cinemas. Despite its first-place result, the film’s initial ticket sales are the reason for worry, as Disney and 20th Century Studios invested $100 million to modernize Shakespeare’s love tale and stand to lose millions if “West Side Story” fails to hold up at the box office through the holidays and Oscar season.
It may be feasible to draw in moviegoers between Christmas and New Year‘s, but it’s a poor start for one of the year’s most highly lauded pictures — and one that was released solely in theaters. Though every new movie musical has struggled to entice audiences in COVID times, it’s concerning for both theater operators and traditional studios that “West Side Story,” one of the most beloved stories in musical theater history and directed by Hollywood’s most commercially successful filmmaker, sold fewer tickets in its opening weekend than “In the Heights,” a lesser-known song-and-dance property that premiered simultaneously on HBO M. “West Side Story” did better than Universal’s previous “Dear Evan Hansen” adaption, which opened at $7.4 million. However, it’s not a very high standard given that “Dear Evan Hansen” was widely panned by reviewers. In addition, “In the Heights” and “Dear Evan Hansen” was far less expensive to produce than “West Side Story.”
“We’ve seen musicals connect with critics and viewers and go on a run in the past,” says David A. Gross, president of the movie consulting company Franchise Entertainment Research, referring to “Chicago,” which debuted at $10 million and eventually grossed $170 million in North America. That was the case with 2017’s original musical “The Greatest Showman,” which debuted to a meager $8.8 million box office. However, fans fell in love with the song and returned to the cinemas numerous times for sing-along screenings, resulting in $171 million in domestic ticket sales. Despite having immortal melodies like “Somewhere” and “America,” “West Side Story” tracks are unlikely to return to radio’s top 10 rankings and stimulate repeat viewings.
“That was then, and this is today,” says the speaker. “The moviegoing experience is still hampered,” Gross argues.
“West Side Story,” based on the 1957 Broadway musical, was written by Tony Kushner and starred Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as ill-fated lovers Tony and Maria. The opposing street gangs, the white Sharks and the Puerto Rican Jets, are fueled by their affection. Ariana DeBose plays Anita, David Alvarez plays Bernardo, Mike Faist plays the Riff, and Rita Moreno plays Valentina, a newly developed part. The response from ticket purchasers has been positive (it had an “A” CinemaScore), but “West Side Story” isn’t likely to have the same staying power as “The Greatest Showman” since older people — the film’s primary demographic — haven’t been willing to return to the theaters. Premium large formats (PLF) had a solid showing of “West Side Story,” with IMAX contributing $1 million in domestic ticket sales. When “Spider-Man: No Way Home” arrives next weekend, it will lose much of its PLF placement.
“If ‘West Side Story is to be lucrative, it has to resonate worldwide as well as locally,” adds Gross. “West Side Story” has not been well received by overseas audiences thus far. The film has grossed $4.4 million in 37 foreign countries, increasing worldwide to $14.9 million.
Movie theater attendance has down after October established epidemic box office records owing to “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “No Time to Die.” That will change next week with the release of Sony’s comic book sequel “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Adult audiences, on the other hand, have stayed at home. The majority of financially successful films have been aimed at younger boys.
Compared to this weekend’s other new statewide release, STX’s virtually wholly unknown sports drama “National Champions,” “West Side Story” seems like a blockbuster. The picture stars Stephan James, and J.K. Simmons bombed in its first weekend, grossing just $300,000 from 1,197 cinemas. Even by COVID-19 standards, this is a humiliating outcome. “National Champions” debuted at No. 14 on the box office rankings, behind only New Line’s re-release of “Elf,” which grossed $343,000 from just 630 cinemas. STX is planning for “National Champions” to debut on premium video-on-demand services in January, after an exclusive run in cinemas.
Disney’s “Encanto” continues to attract people, which is a good omen for family films. With $9.4 million from 3,750 sites, the animated musical story has slipped to second place after two weeks at the top. “Encanto” has grossed $71 million in North America and $150 million worldwide.
Another popular choice, particularly among male moviegoers, is Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” The sci-fi comedy sequel finished with $7.1 million from 3,815 screens in its fourth weekend of play. This brings its total in North America to a solid $112 million. MGM’s murder thriller “House of Gucci,” which debuted at No. 4, gained $4 million over the weekend, bringing its domestic total to $41 million. With $3.1 million from 3,030 screens, Disney and Marvel’s “Eternals” rounded out the top five. Too far, the superhero epic has grossed $161 million since its release in early November.
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