20th Century Studios/Amblin/Disney’s West Side Story grossed $800K last night in Thursday night previews that began at 5PM at 2,820 locations. Industry projections for Steven Spielberg’s first feature musical are between $12M-$17M.
West Side Story‘s Thursday night matches that of Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen which also made $800K from 2,700 theaters from showtimes that started at 7PM. Warner Bros. didn’t hold previews for its Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights back in June. On the bright side, and while not technically an exact comp, West Side Story‘s Thursday night bests the pre-pandemic 2015 previews of Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies which posted $500K before turning in a $15.3M opening.
True, Dear Evan Hansen did tank at the box office with a $7.4M opening and $15M final domestic. But that was a different song altogether despite also being 2 hours-plus long like West Side Story: Dear Evan Hansen was too depressing for a pandemic audience looking for escapism and crushed by critics with a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. West Side Story is big a dance number for the big screen, with a lot of toe-tapping songs to keep you humming as you leave the theater. It’s already armed with awards season buzz and 93% certified fresh from critics. Aside from opening in a marketplace where adults are still cautious because of Covid, West Side Story‘s biggest hurdle as of this minute are holiday season distractions, i.e. shopping, parties. Typically the only movies showing any signs of life before Christmas are event titles like Jumanji: The Next Level and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse. One can’t exactly expect big grosses for an adult-demo musical which is a remake of a Hollywood classic before Christmas, even pre-pandemic. I hear Disney plans to spend on West Side Story throughout the holiday and make this a sleeper. Who knew The Greatest Showman, which also opened before Christmas and put up a $13.5M 5-day, deflated awards season buzz and bad reviews at 57% Rotten would get to $174.3M and $435M WW? And the movie wasn’t even based off of any Broadway IP.
I was told by a rival distribution boss yesterday that it’s hard to get screens for the holiday season this year, and again, this is likely Disney’s way of getting out ahead before Spider-Man: No Way Home takes over the world next weekend, I’m now hearing well over $150M for that Sony/Disney/Marvel team-up.