WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: West Side Story Slow-Dances to Mild $10.5M Over Quiet Weekend

West Side Story
'West Side Story' (Image Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

With exhibitors waiting with bated breath for the opening of next weekend’s Disney/Marvel tentpole Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Mouse House put out an event film of a different type this weekend: Steven Spielberg’s splashy musical West Side Story, the second big-screen version of the Broadway stage musical after the 1961 classic that took home 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, nearly 60 years ago. With a three-day opening of $10.5M from 2,820 locations (33% of which came from PLF and IMAX screens), the remake debuted at the very low end of expectations. The weekend’s only other new wide release, STX’s National Champions, opened outside the top 10 with a sub-$1M debut.

Despite boasting numerous upsides – Spielberg pedigree, hugely positive reviews, beloved IP, and growing Oscar buzz – West Side Story also found itself up against one major issue: the reluctance of its target audience of older adults, particularly women over the age of 35, to return to theaters amid the ongoing pandemic (the opening weekend crowd was 57% female, while 54% of the audience was over 35). That demographic has been the slowest to come back to the multiplex, presenting the Disney/20th Century Studios title with an extra hurdle that it simply couldn’t clear this weekend. Notably, its opening number was below even that of this past summer’s In the Heights, which was widely viewed as an underperformer when it debuted to $11.5M in June and finished its domestic run with $29.9M. Not to mention, Heights was a hybrid release – released by Warner Bros., it debuted day-and-date on HBO Max – whereas West Side Story is available to watch only in theaters, making its theatrical bow all the more disappointing.

That said, West Side Story will have one distinct advantage in the weeks ahead: a long holiday window to pick up steam as strong word-of-mouth spreads, awards buzz grows and more moviegoers head back to their local theaters as they look to out-of-home activities to enjoy with their familes during the Christmas season. For audiences who have seen it, the remake has an impressive “A” Cinemascore, a 4.5 out of 5 stars from general audiences (with an 88% total positive rating) on PostTrak and a sizzling 94% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, marking it as a film with potential to hold strongly through New Year’s and beyond, hopefully as more of the older adult audience – not generally known for rushing out to see films on opening weekend – begins catching wind of West Side Story’s quality. The question mark here is whether younger audiences unfamiliar with the original movie will turn out in big enough numbers to help justify the film’s reported $100M-plus price tag.

Overseas, West Side Story opened to $4.4M from 37 territories, including $1.7M in the U.K. and $1.1M in France, where it finished at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. The musical’s global opening weekend was $14.9M.

After dipping by over 50% in its sophomore frame, Disney’s Encanto slowed its descent this weekend, easing just 28% to an estimated $9.43M in its third outing. Despite a slower-than-expected start, the animated title held well thanks to the presence of few other family alternatives in the marketplace, particularly for parents with younger children. The critically acclaimed musical has $71.3M domestically to date. Overseas, it grossed $13.6M from 47 territories, remaining No. 1 in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Spain and several other territories. After just 18 days of release in Colombia (where the film is set), Encanto is already the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time in the country with $7.9M, not to mention the highest-grossing film of the pandemic era. It’s also the highest-grossing animated title of the pandemic across the Latin American region as a whole.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife took third place with an estimated $7.1M in its fourth weekend of release, representing a solid drop of just 32%. The Sony release has $112M so far, putting it only about 4% behind the 2016 Ghostbusters at the same point in its run. Overseas, Afterlife grossed an estimated $6.4M from 53 markets, bringing its international total to $52.7M. It will release in Australia on January 1 and Japan on February 4.

In fourth place, UA/MGM’s House of Gucci dropped 42% to an estimated $4.06M in its third weekend, bringing the fashion-forward drama to a total of $41.03M to date. The Lady Gaga-starring film held relatively well despite the introduction into the marketplace of West Side Story, which likely drew away some of Gucci‘s older adult audience this weekend. Overseas, the Ridley Scott-directed title grossed an estimated $10.14M from 63 territories, giving it $51.99M internationally and $92.94M worldwide. The film opens in the Gucci family’s native Italy on December 16 before hitting more major markets starting in early January.

Disney/Marvel’s Eternals finished in fifth place with an estimated $3.1M, bringing the superhero extravaganza to a total of $161.2M ahead of its MCU predecessor Spider-Man: No Way Home’s sure-to-be-explosive debut next weekend. Interestingly, some pundits are predicting that No Way Home could open north of $200 million, which would surpass Eternals’ entire domestic box office run in the span of just three days. Eternals brought in an additional estimated $3.6M from 47 international territories, for an overseas tally of $234.1M and a worldwide total of $395.3M.

Sony’s Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City finished in sixth place in its third weekend with an estimated $1.65M, giving the horror-action prequel $15.85M to date. Overseas, it took an estimated $2.3M from 42 markets for an international total of $14.9M.

At No. 7, Paramount’s Clifford the Big Red Dog took in an estimated $1.33M in its fifth weekend of release for a total of $47.71M so far. Clifford grossed $7.4M overseas from 40 markets, including 19 new openings in territories like the U.K., where distributor eOne managed a No. 2 debut with $1.7M, and Russia, where it opened at No. 2 with an estimated $1.5M. The family title has $14.3M internationally to date.

After opening to $4.3M last weekend, Fathom Events’ Christmas With the Chosen: The Messengers fell 62% to eighth place with an estimated $1.29M in its sophomore weekend in 1,600 theaters. The faith-based title, which opened on Wednesday, December 1, has $13.43M after 12 days of release.

Rounding out the top 10 were Dune and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which grossed an estimated $857,000 and $850,000 in their eighth and eleventh weekends, respectively. The Warner Bros. sci-fi has a total of $106.21M and the Sony antihero sequel has $212.05M. Dune also grossed an additional $3M overseas from 59 markets, including $1.9M in its second weekend in Australia, for an international total of $283.7M and a global total of $389.9M. Let There Be Carnage took in an estimated $4.7M internationally from 60 markets, giving it an overseas tally of $281.3M and a global total of $493.3M.

Opening outside the top 10 was STX’s National Champions, which took in an estimated $300,000 from 1,197 locations. With a reported $8M budget, the college-football drama didn’t enjoy a particularly robust marketing campaign, though the studio has said that it’s targeting a big PVOD push when the National Championship college football game takes place in January.

SPECIALTY RELEASES

Focus Features’ Belfast eased its domestic footprint to 819 theaters nationwide and brought in an estimated $275,000, giving it a $6.49M total. New York continues to be the Kenneth Branagh drama’s top market, with 8.5% of the film’s Friday and Saturday gross.

Remaining outside the top was A24’s C’mon C’mon, which grossed an estimated $177,322 from 569 screens. The acclaimed Mike Mills-directed film starring Joaquin Phoenix has taken in $1.6M so far.

Remaining on just 4 screens this weekend, UA’s Licorice Pizza took in an estimated $176,349 for a per-screen average of $44,087, bringing the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed title to $1.1M after three weeks of limited release. The studio is hoping to capitalize on strong word-of-mouth for the critically-acclaimed film as it eyes an expansion in the coming weeks.

A24 opened the buzzy Sean Baker dramedy Red Rocket on 6 screens this weekend and took in an estimated $96,593, for an encouraging $16,158 per-screen average. The indie title has been the subject of awards-season talk, particularly for star Simon Rex’s turn as a washed-up porn actor who returns to his small Texas hometown. The distributor noted that it held sold-out Q&A screenings over the weekend with Baker and the film’s cast on both coasts.

Sideshow/Janus Films’ Drive My Car, which has been named to numerous critics’ end-of-year top 10 lists, grossed an estimated $60,378 from 24 theaters for a per-screen average of $2,516 and a total of $136,199. The distributors note that the Japanese drama set post-pandemic opening weekend records at theaters in Chicago and Seattle and increased its audience at both New York City theaters where it’s showing. It will expand to additional cities including Austin, Denver and Philadelphia next weekend.


Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates: December 10-12, 2021

Title Estimated weekend % change Locations Location change Average Total Weekend Distributor
West Side Story $10,500,000   2,820   $3,723 $10,500,000 1 20th Century Studios
Encanto $9,425,000 -28% 3,750 -230 $2,513 $71,345,055 3 Walt Disney
Ghostbusters: Afterlife $7,100,000 -31% 3,815 -244 $1,861 $112,004,281 4 Sony Pictures
House of Gucci $4,060,749 -42% 3,407 -70 $1,192 $41,032,121 3 United Artists
Eternals $3,100,000 -24% 3,030 -200 $1,023 $161,217,043 6 Walt Disney
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City $1,650,000 -39% 2,572 -231 $642 $15,851,944 3 Sony Pictures
Clifford the Big Red Dog $1,325,000 -30% 2,840 -421 $467 $47,708,811 5 Paramount…
Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers $1,290,000 -69% 1,450 -250 $889 $13,438,000 2 Fathom Events
Dune $857,000 -54% 948 -269 $904 $106,210,000 8 Warner Bros.
Venom: Let There be Carnage $850,000 -15% 1,003 -231 $847 $212,052,968 11 Sony Pictures
No Time to Die $586,900 -35% 777 -400 $755 $160,538,078 10 United Artists
King Richard $530,000 -57% 1,402 -1,252 $378 $14,446,000 4 Warner Bros.
National Champions $300,000   1,197   $251 $300,000 1 STX Entertainment
Belfast $275,000 -48% 819 -436 $336 $6,489,375 5 Focus Features
The French Dispatch $234,000 -37% 310 -115 $755 $15,551,767 8 Searchlight
C’mon C’mon $177,322 -62% 569 4 $312 $1,604,582 4 A24
Licorice Pizza $176,350 -27% 4 n/c $44,088 $1,105,538 3 United Artists
Red Rocket $96,593   6   $16,099 $96,593 1 A24
Ron’s Gone Wrong $40,000 -62% 210 -100 $190 $22,959,269 8 20th Century Studios
Tadap $28,000 -51% 50 -13 $560 $114,173 2 20th Century Studios
Antlers $19,000 -56% 145 -35 $131 $10,610,848 7 Searchlight
Wolf $15,000 -82% 206 -102 $73 $137,570 2 Focus Features
Halloween Kills $5,000 -58% 120 -30 $42 $91,998,225 9 Universal

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