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'West Side Story' earns raves but kicks up slight $10.5 million at domestic box office

Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the beloved musical impressed critics and delighted audiences. But the opening weekend receipts fell short of expectations.
Image: Ariana DeBose, center, in a scene from "West Side Story."
Ariana DeBose, center, in a scene from "West Side Story."Twentieth Century Studios

Steven Spielberg's acclaimed retelling of the classic musical "West Side Story" earned $10.5 million in North American ticket sales over the weekend, according to studio estimates — a disappointing debut for a movie estimated to have cost at least $100 million to produce.

The film's box office performance was likely hurt by the fact that moviegoers over the age of 35, who tend to be the core audience for big-screen musicals, remain wary of the lingering threat of Covid, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, a firm that tracks box office data.

But there is still a good chance that "West Side Story," an adaptation of the beloved 1957 Broadway show and the Oscar-winning film released four years later, could dance to greater commercial success in the weeks ahead — especially over Christmas, Dergarabedian said.

He pointed to the enthusiastic response from both audiences and professional critics. The film received an 'A' grade in CinemaScore exit polls and a 93 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sunday morning.

Dergarabedian said there is hope that Spielberg's latest could follow the box-office trajectory of the musical "The Greatest Showman" (2017), which opened to a slim $8.8 million in domestic receipts but went on to gross more than $170 million in North America.

Academy Awards buzz could boost the film's fortunes, too. Oscar victor "Green Book" went into wide release in 2018 with a soft $5.5 million but eventually gained steam, collecting a respectable $85 million in North America by the end of its theatrical run.

"West Side Story" is thought to be a leading contender for the best picture prize, along with Kenneth Branagh's autobiographical "Belfast" and Jane Campion's layered psychodrama "The Power of the Dog."

However, the movie marketplace will become more competitive before year’s end with the release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the fourth installment in the “Matrix” franchise and “Sing 2.”

Spielberg's film, starring newcomer Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort, debuted in 2,820 theaters in North America. Disney released it in 37 foreign territories, where it collected a combined $4.4 million for a global opening of $14.9 million, according to studio data.