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Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed West Side Story posted a subdued opening day gross of $4.1 million from 2,820 theaters at the Friday box office and looks headed for a disappointing domestic opening in the $10 million to $11 million range.
The good news: If those projections hold, the 20th Century and Disney film will claim the No. 1 spot on the chart ahead of Disney Animation holdover Encanto.
West Side Story had hoped to clear at least $13 million in its opening frame. Musicals face a huge challenge in the pandemic era since they rely on older adults, and particularly older females. So far, moviegoers over the age of 35 are the leeriest in terms of returning to theaters.
The movie earned an A CinemaScore from audiences, while the largest quadrant comprised ticket buyers over the age of 55 (26 percent). More than half of the audience was over the age of 35.
The overall marketing campaign has positioned the film as an event pic and love story instead of a musical, in hopes of attracting younger consumers who are so far fueling the box office recovery.
Directed from a script by Tony Kushner and based on the iconic 1957 Broadway show, West Side Story was originally set to open in 2020. The film stars Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria and opens 60 years after the first movie hit the big screen on its way to scoring numerous Oscars, including best picture.
Spielberg’s West Side Story is likewise expected to be a major Oscar contender. At the box office, it hopes to remain a player throughout the year-end holidays.
The weekend’s other new nationwide release, the football drama National Champions, is getting sacked in its debut. The film, directed by Ric Roman Waugh, grossed $120,000 from 1,197 theaters on Friday for an estimated weekend opening of $320,000. STX, which is handling the films, is counting on a robust premium VOD run in January tied to the real-life NCAA national championship game.
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