In a year full of (mostly) good musicals, sorry, “Dear Evan Hansen,” “In The Heights,” “Annette,” and the recent “Encanto” and “tick, tick … BOOM!” were released. Out of all of these, there was a specific hope for one musical, that being Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the 1957 play and 1961 film, “West Side Story.” With a seemingly crowd-pleasing reaction from both moviegoers and critics, 94% audience score and 93% critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and a star-making performance from first-time actress Rachel Zegler, it is somewhat of a disappointment that “West Side Story” made only $10.5 million this weekend. For comparison’s sake, “In The Heights,” another musical with a diverse cast and backed by a well-known director (Lin-Manuel Miranda), opened to a paltry $11,504,710 back in June and made a total of $43,879,041 worldwide during its theatrical run. In all fairness, it was a part of the now practically defunct “day and date” release plan on HBO Max. “In The Heights” had a reported budget of $55 million, almost half of the 2021 “West Side Story” ($100 million).
Whether you want to chalk up the lack of success for the 2021 “West Side Story” to poor marketing, a problematic star, or a lack of interest, it, unfortunately, has a long road ahead if it wants to make back its budget. With another $4.4 million being estimated internationally, that only brings its total up to $14.9 million worldwide, a long way away from making its full budget (marketing included) back. With “Spider-Man: No Way Home” coming next week, perhaps the near-Christmas release date was simply not the right play.
Also debuting was “National Champions,” making an estimated $300,000, and “Red Rocket,” which made $96,593 in just six theaters. The former stars J.K. Simmons and Lil Rey Howery and about, you guessed it, the college football national championship game. The latter is A24’s latest release with Oscar hopes that stars Simon Rex and is directed by Sean Baker and follows a washed-up adult film star (Rex) who returns to his hometown in Texas. Keep in mind, A24 has already had a solid year of contenders, “Val,” “The Green Knight,” “Lamb” to name a few, and also has “The Tragedy of Macbeth” coming to theaters on Christmas Day, which opened the NYFF this fall. Arthouse cinema is in good hands with A24 and NEON, who are constantly distributing great films that go under the radar with the onslaught of franchise/tentpole movies released.
“Drive My Car” must feature a Prius, as the critically-acclaimed Japanese film quietly expanded to 24 theaters after being in only four last weekend. More cities are being added to the release plan this weekend, so keep an eye out for the film to make its way into your local arthouse theater.
Not included in that group of franchise/tentpole movies is Disney’s “Encanto,” which only took a 28.3% drop in its third weekend and crossed $70 million domestically and $150 million worldwide. But included in the group of franchise/tentpole movies is “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which grossed another $7.1 million in its fourth weekend, putting it at $112,004,281 domestically and $164,704,281 worldwide. For the sake of comparison, the 2016 “Ghostbusters” grossed $229,147,509 in its run, with $128,350,574 of its haul coming domestically. At the same point of its run, four weeks in, it was at $116,588,128 domestically, so perhaps “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” can continue the legs the 2016 “Ghostbusters” had, albeit over 17 weeks.
“House of Gucci” has continued its impressive run at the box office, nearing $100 million worldwide ($93,022,121) in just three short weeks after adding another $4,060,749 this weekend.
Even if “West Side Story” “underperformed” this weekend, it’s highly unlikely that everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, Spider-Man, will suffer a similar fate with “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” The marketing, shattered ticket pre-sale numbers, and the mere fact that the MCU has a built-in fanbase, unlike “West Side Story,” which is far from a franchise, at least in the traditional sense.