Hollywood execs are scratching their heads trying to figure out
what went wrong.
Steven Spielberg, arguably the most famous and accomplished film director in the world, has a massive flop on his hands despite an aggressive advertising campaign.
“West Side Story” pulled in a measly $10.5 million on opening weekend. According to Variety, the film would need to generate $300 million in revenue just to break even.
There’s probably not one single explanation for what made “West Side Story” such a massive flop. But various outlets have begun posting theories about what happened, and they’re quick to blame COVID-19 for the lack of viewership.
“The biggest obstacle facing ‘West Side Story’ is — and will continue to be — convincing older audiences to go to theaters,” the Variety writer explained. “Along with families, it’s the main demographic that hasn’t returned in full force since the pandemic, particularly at a time when a new COVID variant has emerged.”
The writer goes on to explain how the musical typically has an audience that skews older, and this demographic is the least likely to be returning to in-person events like going to movie theaters. Plus, unlike some other new releases, “West Side Story” lacks a concurrent streaming component and is solely relying on theater ticket sales for revenue.
Despite lackluster ticket sales so far, senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Variety he’s optimistic that “West Side Story” could eventually turn a profit. “They’re chasing an audience that doesn’t rush out opening weekend,” Dergarabedian said. “You have to look at longterm playability. That will really tell the real story of the box office for ‘West Side Story.’”
“If it got universally bad reviews, it would be game over,” he continued. “But I wouldn’t write off ‘West Side Story; given the quality and time of year. I think it could do well.”
Rotten Tomatoes rated “West Side Story” 93% fresh while the audience score is a commendable 95% with a 4.3 out of 5 average rating. But that’s still not enough to save it from being a financial disaster.
Some people have a different take on the whole debacle.
Kyle Smith from National Review called the story, “an extremely dated property — corny, maudlin, contrived, phony” despite Spielberg’s attempts to update it. He also pointed out that the lead actors are mostly unknown to the target audience, which makes going to see the movie less of a draw. The film stars 20-year-old actress Rachel Zegler as Maria and Ansel Elgort as Tony.
Smith agrees that the demographic who would enjoy “West Side Story” most is the least likely to see movies in theaters.
And finally, Spielberg made an effort to “modernize” the story with woke, left-wing tweaks, that could be unappealing to some would-be watchers.
The new “West Side Story” introduces a transgender character called Anybodys, who is played by “nonbinary” actor Iris Menas. This inclusion led to the movie being banned in certain Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, NBC News reported.