‘West Side Story’ could have a big opening at box office thanks to Spielberg and Oscar buzz

“West Side Story,” the remake of the 1961 musical classic from 20th Century Studios, hits theaters this weekend and is expected to have an opening of approximately $ 15 million in North America.

That would be a good start for the film, starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler and directed by Steven Spielberg. But thanks to Spielberg and the stellar reviews that are causing a stir at the Oscars, “West Side Story” could even exceed those strong expectations this weekend.

Theaters and Hollywood will closely follow “West Side Story,” as the industry is trying to end 2021 on momentum after a year in which some major movies returned to theaters and others went straight to broadcast.

Typically, the box office proceeds go to big brands like Harry Potter and Marvel, rather than big names from the cast and crew. But with “West Side Story”, it is the director himself who can attract the audience.

The Spielberg factor and the Oscar rumor

Spielberg is arguably the most famous director in film history, credited with creating the very concept of the 1975 blockbuster “Jaws.” Spielberg’s films, which include such hits as “Raiders of the Lost Ark. “,” ET The Extra-Terrestrial “and” Jurassic Park “have grossed more than $ 4.5 billion at the national box office during their nearly 50-year run, according to Comscore (SCORE).

Is your name enough to get people to buy a ticket? “West Side Story”, as well as theaters, could certainly benefit from the recognition of that name this weekend. Spielberg has already directed countless award-winning films, from “Saving Private Ryan” to “Lincoln,” and based on reviews so far, “West Side Story” could be next.

The movie has a 96% review score on Rotten Tomatoes, with some critics even saying that the new movie is better than the original. And that says something: The original won 10 Oscars, the most for any movie musical.
“Whatever the popular reception for this new adaptation, it’s five times the movie the ’61 movie was,” wrote Michael Phillips, a film critic for the Chicago Tribune. “Spielberg has never done a musical before, but this one looks and feels like the work of a master of the Old Hollywood way, someone who knows when, where and why to move a camera capturing bodies in rhythmic motion.”

This kind of acclaim could lead to strong ticket sales this weekend, as well as for weeks to come, if it continues to generate buzz about the Oscars.

Are musicals still important?

“West Side Story” has a lot of work going for it at the box office this weekend, but the music genre has been struggling to find an audience lately. Recent film adaptations of Broadway musicals, such as “In The Heights,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and “Cats,” all disappointed at the box office, each grossing less than $ 30 million in domestic ticket sales. But while musicals have seen some box office flops recently, the genre has seen some big hits, like “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman” and “Mamma Mia!”

So will “West Side Story” hit the high notes of “La La Land” or a misplaced note at the box office, like “Dear Evan Hansen” did? This weekend’s opening numbers will tell.

The old 'West Side Story' got it wrong in the middle of the story.  Spielberg's new movie tries to get it right

Jonathan Kuntz, professor of film at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and TV, noted that “musicals have been successful in many eras for many reasons,” but “from the 1970s to the present, the American musical film has had only intermittent success. “

“Part of this is due to the fragmentation of musical interests,” he said. “In the past, everyone of all ages could hum the tunes to ‘My Fair Lady,’ but today, there is no musical culture that unites the world in the same way.”

“West Side Story”, however, has one attribute that makes it stand out in the genre: it is one of the most beloved musicals ever made.

“It is based on one of the greatest Broadway musicals, with immortal songs, created by the talents of Bernstein & Sondheim, titans of form,” said Kuntz. “Furthermore … it deals with real issues and presents a vision of racial conflict and reconciliation that could resonate with modern audiences.”


Leave a Comment