Box Office: 'West Side Story' Takes #1 But Missteps In Debut

The Weekend's Top 3 Box Office Winners: "West Side Story" - $10.5M; "Encanto" - $9.4M; "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" - $7.1M.

Matt Lissauer

By Matt Lissauer

Box Office - Ariana DeBose (foreground) in "West Side Story."

© 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

It wasn't exactly the smash-hit Disney/20th Century was expecting. Nevertheless, the Steven Spielberg-directed Broadway adaptation, "West Side Story," ambled to the top of the box office with an opening take of $10.5M. Analysts weren't projecting high numbers for the award-friendly musical. Still, "West Side Story" failed to scoop up more than the bottom end of even the most conservative projections.

Why did "West Side Story" fail to resonate? From COVID concerns to the allegations against the musical's only major star, several factors are to blame. Still, despite positive reviews, an "A" CinemaScore, and strong Oscar buzz, Spielberg's fresh new take on the Broadway show, and 1962 Best Picture winner, just couldn't bring out the crowds. This continues a trend we've been seeing as of late at the box office. The film's target demo of older adults (particularly women) has been slow to return to theaters, and the film's genre has not clicked all year.

There are silver linings, though. Looking back a few years, the Fox-produced "The Greatest Showman" became an under-the-radar hit as that film legged out from its initial pre-Christmas release. Of course, those were different times. But two things that "West Side Story" has going for it are the musical's in-theater-exclusivity and its Oscar-buzz. Both can help the film see a bump in sales over Christmas.

© STX Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

© STX Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

This weekend, the only other major release of note was STX's sports drama "National Champions." That film failed to crack the Top Ten, collecting only $300K. STX, however, is hoping to recoup any losses with a play for a PVOD release in January that falls in conjunction with the actual NCAA National Championship game.

Holdovers held the rest of the Top Ten, with Disney's "Encanto" leading the charge. The family musical took the Number Two slot and slid in just under "West Side Story" with $9.4M. This brought its total domestic haul to $71M. Also of note, on the specialty side, is Paul Thomas Anderson's "Licorice Pizza." The '70s set coming-of-age dramedy collected $44K from four screens and brought its total haul over $1M. A24's "Red Rocket" also opened to solid numbers from just six theaters this weekend. While the older segment of the adult demo is lagging, the younger slice of that pie is definitely back and looking for more things to watch in between tentpoles. More good news for struggling arthouses.

While this past weekend might have felt like a bit of a downer, up ahead things are as bright as the Christmas lights. This coming weekend should see the biggest debut of the year with Sony/Marvel's MCU entry "Spider-Man: No Way Home." The film already smashed pre-sale ticket records, and many are projecting an over $100M opening. This would be a first of its kind since the pandemic's start. Playing second-fiddle to "Spider-Man" is Searchlight's "Nightmare Alley." Guillermo del Toro's noir-horror-thriller is another award favorite, featuring compelling performances from Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, and Cate Blanchett.

Box Office Top Ten - Dec. 10-12:

  1. "West Side Story" (20th Century) - $10,500,000 [NEW]
  2. "Encanto" (Disney) - $9,425,000 / Total: $71,345,055
  3. "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" (Sony) - $7,100,000 / Total: $112,004,281
  4. "House of Gucci" (MGM) - $4,060,749 / Total: $41,032,121
  5. "Eternals" (Disney) - $3,100,000 / Total: $161,217,043
  6. "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" (Sony) - $1,650,000 / Total: $15,851,944
  7. "Clifford the Big Red Dog" (Paramount) - $1,325,000 / Total: $47,708,811
  8. "Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers" (Fathom) - $1,290,000 / Total: $13,438,000
  9. "Dune" (WB) - $857,000 / Total: $106,210,160
  10. "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" (Sony) - $850,000 / Total: $212,052,968

Box office data comes to us from Box Office Mojo.

Matt Lissauer

Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.

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