Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Opens to Tepid Box Office Receipts

Steven Spielberg’s ravenous remake of “West Side Story” hit an estimated $ 10.5 million in North American ticket sales, a weak result, even by pandemic standards, which added to the alarm in Hollywood on theatrical viability of non-visual effects films. -Fantasy shows powered by new chapters in ongoing franchises.

But there was also a camp that cautioned against conducting rapid assessments. Musicals tend to get off to a slow start, even more so when they are released in mid-December. Fueled by positive word of mouth and attention from rewards, they can become little engines that could do it. Nominations for the Golden Globe will be announced on Monday.

“The Greatest Showman,” for example, grossed $ 8.8 million during its first three days in domestic theaters in December 2017 and was instantly dismissed as a box office embarrassment. Then the soundtrack caught fire among the young women. “The Greatest Showman,” which cost $ 84 million to produce, ended its six-month theatrical release with $ 437 million in ticket sales worldwide.

In a results email Sunday, Disney, which released “West Side Story” on its 20th Century Studios label, noted that ticket buyers gave the film an A rating in CinemaScore exit polls. Audience sentiment indicators “augur well for the long term until next Christmas season,” the company said.

Launching in 37 international markets, including in some countries where the Omicron variant has prompted governments to tighten safeguards, “West Side Story” raised $ 4.4 million. The film’s global total so far, $ 14.9 million, lost hope of Disney’s premiere of $ 25 million by about 40 percent.

“West Side Story,” based on the 1957 Broadway musical, cost approximately $ 100 million to remake, not including tens of millions of dollars in marketing costs. Tony Kushner adapted the script.

In the United States and Canada, “West Side Story” participation was highest among ticket buyers 55 and older. About 82 percent of the national audience arrived before 8 p.m., according to EntTelligence, a motion picture research firm.

“This is a story about an interracial romance,” David A. Gross, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, said in an email Sunday. “Once upon a time, that was rare and extraordinary. No longer. For moviegoers, the context may have caught up with this film, however well made. “(The filmmaking team and many critics would counter that” West Side Story “also addresses social issues, particularly intolerance. , which are as current as ever. Reviewing the film for The New York Times, AO Scott said Spielberg’s interpretation of the material “reaffirms its indelible appeal while making it feel bold, surprising, and new.”)

Among the A-list filmmakers, Spielberg is one of the last to resist broadcast. Although his company, Amblin, signed a multi-year deal in June to make feature films for Netflix, Spielberg has pushed for his directing projects to remain exclusive to theaters. At the premiere of “West Side Story” in New York City, he thanked Disney executives for giving his film an old-fashioned theatrical display, despite the pandemic, rather than redirecting it to a streaming service, such as the one. The company had particularly done with “Hamilton.” (On Thursday, Disney removed a Ben Affleck thriller, “Deep Water,” from its January theatrical release schedule; the film is expected to air on Amazon Prime or Hulu on its own. place).

So it was heartbreaking for Hollywood traditionalists to see “West Side Story” hit even lower ticket sales than “In the Heights.” That warner Bros. musical to euphoric reviews grossed $ 11.5 million during its first three days in theaters in June, even though it was simultaneously available to stream at no additional cost on HBO Max. Box office analysts used words like “unsuccessful” and “dismal” to describe the opening weekend ticket sales of “In the Heights.”

Live-action musicals have long been a challenged genre at the box office. But they can still be winners, especially if they have all-star casts. “The Greatest Showman” had Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron. The hit “Les Miserables” (2012) featured Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter. Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp and others propelled “Into the Woods” (2014) to $ 31 million in ticket sales on opening weekend. (One exception: Universal’s stellar “Cats”).

“In the Heights,” by contrast, lacked familiar names. The same goes for “Dear Evan Hansen,” which was released in September. And “West Side Story” has only one proven box office star: Spielberg.

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