Remember Lin Manuel Miranda‘s In The Heights, the pizazzy, well-reviewed, media-adored, ethnically-celebrated New York City musical that became one of the biggest crash-and-burn calamities of recent times?
Initial first-weekend projections had it earning as much as $25 million; that figure dropped to the low teens after the first day of release yielded a lousy $5 million. The final opening weekend tally was $11.5 million. Shrieks of shock and disbelief echoed ’round the twitterverse…”what the eff happened?” In The Heights needed $200 million worldwide to break even, but ended up with $43.9 million…wipe-out.
It was generally surmised that Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story would do better — ecstatic reviews, greater brand recognition, great songs, adored by older demos, respected by upmarket X-factor Millennials. Especially given that it opened without a competing day-and-date streaming option (which In The Heights had). Plus Jett and Cait wanted to see it this weekend at their local West Orange plex and every after-dinner weekend show was sold out — they had to settle for Monday evening.
As recently as yesterday morning it was projected by CNN Business’s Frank Pallotta to earn “roughly” $15 million. But WSS only managed a paltry $4.1 million on Friday (including Thursday previews) and will probably end up with a fizzly $10.5 million by tonight — over a million less than In The Heights.
This basically translates into a big nope.
Deadline‘s Anthony D’Allessandro: “[While] the end game for West Side Story is a marathon [and] not a sprint, the mainstream box-office media [can now] feasibly write that a Spielberg film with a $100 million-plus production cost” — rumored to be as high as $130 million, and that’s without prints and ads — “is a bomb.”
Thanks, Millennials who fucking ignored this exceptionally well made and emotionally affecting film and yet intend to storm theatres next weekend for Spider-Man: No Way Home…thanks, Zoomers…and thanks older people (especially older women) who were too busy or too Covid-concerned to show up. You joined your various lethargies and worked together to help kill the theatrical aura (but hopefully not the long-term potential) of one of the finest and most alive-on the-planet-earth films of the year.
Yes, West Side Story is looking at a long game, but how do you work your way out of under-performing compared to In The Heights? Especially considering that West Side Story cost twice as much as Miranda’s film, and probably shouldered heftier p&a costs.
Jett (33 year old Millennial): “There was nothing about West Side Story that was new or immediate or star-driven or which felt like any kind of direct feed or boost from today’s culture. It’s not a streaming-age movie, and the here-and-now element is minimal. It’s basically a nostalgia show for older audiences, and not enough older viewers came out for it.”
67% of In The Heights audience was over 25; 63% female and 40% Latino. 52% of West Side Story ticket buyers were over 35 and 57% female.
No way around it — this was a shit-level opening for West Side Story. And if it finds no traction next weekend, what left will there be to say?
Nick “Action Man” Clement: “I find it interesting that anyone would have thought that this movie would have actually been a box-office hit. Nobody cares. This would have been the case pre-COVID, but mid-COVID? The movie was doomed from the start.
“I haven’t seen it yet — doubtful I’ll have the chance to see it on the big screen — but this spells the end of the studio-fortified adult drama-slash-big musical. If an ecstatically reviewed Beardo film can’t put butts in seats, what can?
“The lack of negative box-office reporting is also striking to consider. Had this been any other film, there’d be HUNDREDS of articles discussing it’s insane financial failure. This is a worse opening that fucking In the Heights….
“What does West Side Story‘s failure mean for its Oscar chances? Or is the Academy delusional enough to get behind a film that has no real pull with auds?
D’Alessandro: “One insider close to the film tells me that the reason why Disney executed this distribution strategy was because they looked at the sleeper trajectories of Spielberg’s adult films and figured their plan off that.
“A rival studio boss remarks that West Side Story will be fine in the long run; that it’s just having two weeks of previews in the run-up to Christmas before it really takes off.
“But there are other studio marketing sources who have their doubts about West Side Story. There are some who ask, even by pre-pandemic standards, who is this movie for? Who wants to see a remake of a multi-Oscar winning classic film? Do mainstream moviegoers really care that Spielberg is making it? And why aren’t there any stars in the film? Moviegoers want to see their stars on screen, and these last three feature musicals — West Side Story, In the Heights, Dear Evan Hansen — didn’t have megawatt stars on screen.”