Steven Spielberg’s lavish “West Side Story” revival debuted with $10.5 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday, despite critical acclaim and two years’ worth of anticipation. This is a concerning result for a film industry that is still trying to find its finger-snapping rhythm.

One of the most anticipated films of the year, “West Side Story” was Spielberg’s debut musical and a gorgeous widescreen rendition. The $100 million “West Side Story” represents a grand-scale prestige film that Hollywood no longer frequently makes, with a script by Tony Kushner and Rita Moreno returning to her breakout film 60 years later. It debuted in theaters amid a flurry of positive reviews and hopes that it may take home the top prize at the March Academy Awards.

But the market for musicals and adult-oriented movies was difficult for “West Side Story”. In the second year of the epidemic, audiences have gradually started to return to multiplexes, but senior moviegoers—who accounted for the majority of those who purchased tickets for Spielberg’s most recent film—have been among the slowest to do so.

Even musicals have had trouble becoming popular in theaters. The Warner Bros. release of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” streamed on HBO Max at the same time as its $11 million June debut. Universal’s “Dear Evan Hansen,” which received negative reviews, opened with $7.4 million in September.

But Spielberg directed this. He was the only person who could revive going to the movies, so it was believed. Surely, one of the films’ brilliant craftspeople, a director known for his or her success at the box office, might ignite a more significant resurgence in theaters. A popular musical is “West Side Story,” too. Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 movie won 10 Oscars, including best picture, and grossed $43.7 million (or over $400 million when adjusted for inflation).

Through the lucrative holiday period, when “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (which is anticipated to become the first pandemic release to open with $100 million or more domestically next weekend) and “Sing 2” will likely be the top draws, “West Side Story” can still be expected to perform well. Hollywood’s film industry is approaching its most lucrative era, so officials are hopeful that the spreading omicron version of COVID-19 won’t hurt box office sales at this time.

The industry will be worried with “West Side Story”‘s underwhelming response. With his song-and-dance extravaganza, Spielberg was long hoped to restore some of the magic of the movies. In contrast, few films now released outside of Marvel are attracting sizable audiences. Simply put, a lot of moviegoers haven’t come back yet.

According to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data company Comscore, “it seems like a pretty heavy lift to draw moviegoers to adult dramas in huge numbers right now.” “That will fade with time, but it is worrying for studios and filmmakers.”

Dergarabedian continued, “But I don’t think this is the last act for ‘West Side Story. “The Greatest Showman” was mostly written off by many.

That 2017 film had a modest $8.8 million opening weekend, but it went on to have a remarkable, extended run that helped it earn $435 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful live-action musicals ever. However, throughout the epidemic, movie theater attendance has declined significantly and has frequently been moved more quickly toward streaming or home release.

“West Side Story,” which starred Rachel Zegler, a novice, and Ansel Elgort as Maria and Tony, made $4.4 million in 37 foreign markets. The movie was outlawed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait because it features a transsexual character.

Franchise Entertainment’s CEO, David A. Gross, described the launch as “soft.”

West Side Story will need to resonate worldwide as well as locally if it is to be financially successful, according to Gross in an email. “So far, the first European openings have been good, but this is going to be difficult given how difficult it is to go to the movies right now,”

The release of Spielberg’s movie took a while. The epidemic caused a year-long delay in its distribution. It was created at 20th Century Fox, which the Walt Disney Co. acquired just before it started filming. Stephen Sondheim, the musical’s renowned lyricist, passed away at the age of 91 just a few days before its Lincoln Center premiere.

Disney’s animated film “Encanto,” which held well in its third week and dropped only 27% from the previous weekend, came in second place for the weekend. From Friday through Sunday, it made $9.6, bringing its overall revenue to $71.3 million domestically and $80.5 million worldwide.

The only other new wide release of the weekend, the collegiate football drama “National Champions” from STX Films, made only $300,000 in 1,197 theaters.

Comscore’s projections for Friday through Sunday theater attendance in the United States and Canada. On Monday, the final domestic data will be revealed.


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