Coming off screenings which indicate it should play in numerous Oscar categories, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story sashays into theaters December 10th. Arriving a year later than anticipated due to COVID, the musical romance (based on the play from Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and the late Stephen Sondheim) stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler (in her film debut), Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, Brian d’Arcy James, and Corey Stoll. The $100 million project follows up on the 1961 classic that generated 10 Academy wins including Picture and Ms. Moreno in Supporting Actress. DeBose takes over that role and it could nab her a nomination. Same goes for Moreno (and possibly Zegler and Alvarez or Faist).
The pandemic related delay means this is Spielberg’s first behind the camera effort in nearly four years behind Ready Player One. Musicals are always a tricky proposition at the box office, but familiarity with the source material and the encouraging buzz should help. Movies geared towards adults have faced a tough road in these times, but House of Gucci proved the right project can bring in an older (and female) crowd.
It’s pretty common to see December offerings premiere with non-gaudy numbers and then leg out nicely over the season. This might be the case here. A debut of $20 million or higher seems a tad unlikely and I’ll project low to mid teens as the awards chatter could eventually get this Story close to its budget domestically.
West Side Story opening weekend prediction: $14.8 million
For my National Champions prediction, click here: