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Why Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ flopped at the box office


MovieMadness
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Why Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ flopped at the box office

Steven Spielberg managed to get critics on board for his ambitious “West Side Story” remake. The moviegoing masses? Not so much.

Over the weekend, Disney and 20th Century Studio’s reimagining of “West Side Story” collected just $10.5 million in its domestic debut, a dismal result for a movie of its scale and scope. The lavish musical, one of the best reviewed movies of the year, carries a $100 million budget and faces an uphill battle to profitability. Given its price tag, industry insiders estimate “West Side Story” needs to generate at least $300 million globally to break even in its theatrical run. The film is playing exclusively on the big screen and doesn’t have a hybrid streaming component, which could help ticket sales in the long run… but it has an awful lot of ground to make up.

“West Side Story” could sustain momentum through the holidays and emerge in the black, analysts say. But the tepid initial grosses underscore Hollywood’s concerns, which have become more pronounced during the pandemic, about the viability of theatrical movies that don’t involve superheroes or CGI action sequences. After all, “West Side Story” is based on one of the biggest musicals in theater history and hails from Hollywood’s most recognizable director. If a well-executed movie that exudes commercial appeal can’t get audiences to go to theaters… can anything?

Since musicals have been struggling at the box office in COVID times, Disney appears to have been bracing for “West Side Story” to start slow. Prior to its release, the studio had negotiated with theater operators to keep “West Side Story” on screens through the new year. It’s a rare deal, one that could only be wielded by the studio that often produces the highest-grossing movies. Normally, multiplex owners would drop a film that isn’t selling tickets to make room for the litany of new releases around Christmastime, often the industry’s busiest time of year. So even though “West Side Story” fell short of expectations, Disney doesn’t have to worry about movie theaters taking the movie off screens to devote more auditoriums to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Dec. 17), “The Matrix: Resurrections” (Dec. 22) or “Sing 2” (Dec. 22) during the crowded holiday season.

The biggest obstacle facing “West Side Story” is — and will continue to be — convincing older audiences to go to theaters. Along with families, it’s the main demographic that hasn’t returned in full force since the pandemic, particularly at a time when a new COVID variant has emerged, though it’s too soon to say how it will affect moviegoing.

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This isn't a shock to anyone that knows movies, there is a small audience for such a film on a good day. Covid had almost nothing to do with it.

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I just read a review from a Puerto Rican writer. She gave Spielberg credit for trying to correct all the offensive things she saw in the original (she seems to be a millennial) but still slammed him for not getting it right. There is no winning the woke. 

John Podhoretz really liked it though. 

Ima skippit. Just doesn't seem meant for me somehow. 

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Apart from Rita Moreno wanting to establish herself as Power Women/Puerto Rican in Hollywood, a majority of the audience didn't seem to see any reason for the movie to be MADE--

Except for Steve to tell us how much he liked the original, growing up.  Uh, yeah, we liked it too.  Got it on disk.

(And for a while, it was either going to be this project, or a Leonard Bernstein biography with a lot of excuses to put West Side Story numbers into it.  Okay, I can see Steve doing that, even if his heart wasn't in the rest of the movie.)

1 hour ago, MovieMadness said:

This isn't a shock to anyone that knows movies, there is a small audience for such a film on a good day. Covid had almost nothing to do with it.

And even in non-pandemic years, the middle week in December is mysteriously "cursed" as the Weekend of Death, when even good mediocre movies suddenly bottom out for one weekend of the year, with record-low wide opening grosses that crush movies instantly on contact.:

The one week when nobody wants to go near a shopping mall, those who do rarely want to go for a movie, teens who do want to go to a movie are geeked to wait one more week to go to the big blockbuster that carved out that valuable third-week slot, and parents with kids are going to wait for after-Christmas school vacation, after the holiday chaos is over.

The Princess & the Frog, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Monster Hunter, Mortal EnginesJumanji: the Next Level, the Day the Earth Stood Still remake, In the Heart of the Sea...All fell victim to the Bermuda Triangle of December movie releases.

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6 hours ago, MovieMadness said:

The biggest obstacle facing “West Side Story” is — and will continue to be — convincing older audiences to go to theaters. Along with families, it’s the main demographic that hasn’t returned in full force since the pandemic, particularly at a time when a new COVID variant has emerged, though it’s too soon to say how it will affect moviegoing.

Did Movie Madness actually say this? Or is this a cut & paste of someone's else's? I'm not used to seeing a bolded title on a post. (haha Peopletoba)

Agree a "big obstacle" but not the only one. Many have gotten out of the habit of going to the movies, now so used to everything streaming right onto their TVs.  Too bad, because this is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater for it to translate, judging by the teaser clips.

All my local fellow Cinephiles are as excited to see it on the big screen as I am. (and I dislike Spielberg) But I am one of "those" people who won't step foot in a public place in December/January, so will have to wait. It would be great if they re-release it in the spring.

 

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This film could be free on television and I doubt that I would watch it. I have yet to see the original version so why would I be in a rush to see a remake? Musicals are not my movie going thing. My parents dragged me to see GIGI when I was a kid. I enjoyed it well enough but that was my sole musical going experience at the show.

By the way, I briefly spoke to a young person (20s) who saw it who said that 30 minutes into the film he was sorry he had gone to see it, and told me not to bother with it. I asked no details since there was never a chance in heck I would ever think of going anyway. Then we talked of films more my speed, like the latest James Bond flick.

Oklahoma, South Pacific, Sound of Music, the list of big screen musicals I have not sat through is a big one. I sometimes think I'm the only person who hasn't seen Julie Andrews as a singing nun.

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9 hours ago, EricJ said:

The one week when nobody wants to go near a shopping mall, those who do rarely want to go for a movie, teens who do want to go to a movie are geeked to wait one more week to go to the big blockbuster that carved out that valuable third-week slot, and parents with kids are going to wait for after-Christmas school vacation, after the holiday chaos is over.The Princess & the Frog, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Monster Hunter, Mortal EnginesJumanji: the Next Level, the Day the Earth Stood Still remake, In the Heart of the Sea...All fell victim to the Bermuda Triangle of December movie releases.

also, debateably, MARS ATTACKS!!

(although one could blame MARS ATTACKS!! for the failure of MARS ATTACKS!!)

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4 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

But I am one of "those" people who won't step foot in a public place in December/January, so will have to wait. It would be great if they re-release it in the spring.

Are theaters generally crowded in your area? The last few times I've been to the movies, it was me, a scattered couple or two, and the projectionist. Also if you want to avoid crowds this looks like the one. 

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Isn't it a bit soon to write this film off as a flop? After all, if the studio has struck a deal with movie chains to keep it in theaters until after the first of the year, that will give them ongoing exposure which I assume will lead to awards nominations. And if the film and its cast do snag nominations, then people will give it a second chance.

It would have to be a truly bad film to flop outright...and I think this film probably does have a lot of appeal in the international market. So even if it under-performs in North America, it could still recoup its budget abroad.

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6 minutes ago, LuckyDan said:

Are theaters generally crowded in your area? The last few times I've been to the movies, it was me, a scattered couple or two, and the projectionist. Also if you want to avoid crowds the looks like the one. 

ALSO IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR A DESERTED LOCATION TO EXCHANGE A HOSTAGE OR MAKE A BRIEFCASE DROPOFF....

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5 minutes ago, King Rat said:

If Spielberg really wanted to update West Side Story, wouldn't the Jets have been Black? Blacks vs. Puerto Ricans would make us see the story with new eyes.

ALSO not a period piece. CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG, but it looks like this version is also set ca. 1961/the late fifties. That brings nothing new as well.

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1 hour ago, UMO1982 said:

There was never an audience for this remake.

exactly. who the hell was clammering for a remake of wss? no one just spielberg. big wup directors should not substitute their desires for what the public wants. it is arrogant and a disconnect. when will hollywood elitists and their critic enablers ever learn?

what mister big wup encounters of the 3rd kind coulda done was get everyone's attention with a remake of seven brides for seven brothers.  a new rendition of sobbin women would -iss off pc hollywood and the country would love it.

but no mister big wup was only interested in besting Robert Wise.

 

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5 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

Did Movie Madness actually say this? Or is this a cut & paste of someone's else's? I'm not used to seeing a bolded title on a post. (haha Peopletoba)

Agree a "big obstacle" but not the only one. Many have gotten out of the habit of going to the movies, now so used to everything streaming right onto their TVs.  Too bad, because this is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater for it to translate, judging by the teaser clips.

All my local fellow Cinephiles are as excited to see it on the big screen as I am. (and I dislike Spielberg) But I am one of "those" people who won't step foot in a public place in December/January, so will have to wait. It would be great if they re-release it in the spring.

 

The only part MM wrote was after the "*****";   Most of his post in Chit-Chat are like that and he rarely sites the original source.

 

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12 hours ago, LuckyDan said:

I just read a review from a Puerto Rican writer. She gave Spielberg credit for trying to correct all the offensive things she saw in the original (she seems to be a millennial) but still slammed him for not getting it right. There is no winning the woke. 

John Podhoretz really liked it though. 

Ima skippit. Just doesn't seem meant for me somehow. 

The only way for this film to sell well within the Latino community would be for the Sharks to be heroes;  I.e. that is the only way to "get it right" for most members of that community.   If one is going to make a "PC" adaptation they need to really stick to that,  and target their PR campaign towards the community that would favor such a version,  realizing that they will lose the market that doesn't favor such versions (but instead often hates them). 

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11 hours ago, EricJ said:

Apart from Rita Moreno wanting to establish herself as Power Women/Puerto Rican in Hollywood, a majority of the audience didn't seem to see any reason for the movie to be MADE--

Except for Steve to tell us how much he liked the original, growing up.  Uh, yeah, we liked it too.  Got it on disk.

(And for a while, it was either going to be this project, or a Leonard Bernstein biography with a lot of excuses to put West Side Story numbers into it.  Okay, I can see Steve doing that, even if his heart wasn't in the rest of the movie.)

And even in non-pandemic years, the middle week in December is mysteriously "cursed" as the Weekend of Death, when even good mediocre movies suddenly bottom out for one weekend of the year, with record-low wide opening grosses that crush movies instantly on contact.:

The one week when nobody wants to go near a shopping mall, those who do rarely want to go for a movie, teens who do want to go to a movie are geeked to wait one more week to go to the big blockbuster that carved out that valuable third-week slot, and parents with kids are going to wait for after-Christmas school vacation, after the holiday chaos is over.

The Princess & the Frog, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Monster Hunter, Mortal EnginesJumanji: the Next Level, the Day the Earth Stood Still remake, In the Heart of the Sea...All fell victim to the Bermuda Triangle of December movie releases.

A Leonard Bernstein biopic could have been fabulous. And certainly, it would have included some music from "West Side Story", but Bernstein did write other works. After all, his passion was composing.

BTW--I think that Rita Moreno has been a powerful legend for all women, and particularly for women of color, for quite a few decades with or without this remake.

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11 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

A Leonard Bernstein biopic could have been fabulous. And certainly, it would have included some music from "West Side Story", but Bernstein did write other works. After all, his passion was composing.

BTW--I think that Rita Moreno has been a powerful legend for all women, and particularly for women of color, for quite a few decades with or without this remake.

Good post. There is no need to diss Rita Moreno. She personifies the word legend, and her status as a trailblazer was assured long before this film. She didn't need a remake of WEST SIDE STORY to help her prove anything.

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21 minutes ago, JamesJazGuitar said:

The only way for this film to sell well within the Latino community would be for the Sharks to heroes;  I.e. that is the only way to "get it right" for most members of that community.   If one is going to make a "PC" adaptation they need to really stick to that,  and target their PR compaign towards the community that would favor such a version,  realizing that they will lose the market that doesn't favor such versions (but instead often hates them). 

You DO realize that along with "sp!ck", PR is often used to refer to Puerto Ricans too?  ;) 

Sepiatone

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1 hour ago, King Rat said:

If Spielberg really wanted to update West Side Story, wouldn't the Jets have been Black? Blacks vs. Puerto Ricans would make us see the story with new eyes.

The original conception for "West Side Story" is that the Sharks were supposed to be black.

But an interracial Romeo and Juliet-type love story was too controversial for the 1950s, so they changed the black gang to a Puerto Rican one.

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