Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Broadway’s West Side Story disappointed at the domestic box office, earning just $10.5 million in its opening weekend.
While it managed to top the box office, it’s hard to imagine the musical recouping its $100 million budget. To put its anemic total in perspective, West Side Story made less than the $11.5 million that In the Heights, which was simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max, pulled in.
The good news for the Spielberg-directed film is that big top musicals like West Side Story tend to have legs over the holiday season. “In the past, we’ve seen musicals connect with critics and audiences and go on a run,” David A. Gross of the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research told Variety. “That was then, and this is now. Moviegoing conditions remain impaired.”
One such case of a musical seeing a late surge was Chicago, which also started off with $10 million, but wound up earning $170 million in North America alone.
Gross believes that if West Side Story has any hope of, at least, breaking even financially, it will need to “connect” with the international crowd, but early returns show that Spielberg’s latest film has also struggled overseas, bringing in just $4.4 million from 37 overseas markets. We should also note that Gen Z audiences aren’t likely to flock to the cinema to see a prestige musical, and older audiences have been going to the theater less over obvious concerns about the pandemic.
We understand they were going for that holiday musical blockbuster release, but in all honestly it just feels like a weird time for a major musical film adaptation. The last few have been ‘meh’ at best. Most people will just wait to watch it at home.