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411 Box Office Report: West Side Story Opens Low But Wins Weekend, Eternals Nears $400 Million Worldwide

December 12, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
West Side Story

It was another quiet frame at the box office before the explosion that will be next weekend, with West Side Story quietly opening to top the charts. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the 1950s musical took in $10.5 million, which is definitely low but about where expectations were going into the weekend, for the #1 spot. That marks the lowest opening weekend for a Spielberg-directed film since War Horse scored just $7.5 million all the way back in December of 2011.

On the surface, this looks like nothing but bad news for 20th Century Studios, who sunk $100 million into the budget (not including marketing). And it’s definitely not good news by any measure, even if it’s not particularly surprising. West Side Story is an icon a previous era of movie-making and a musical, both hard sells to younger crowds. And even if older crowds weren’t avoiding theaters in the face of the pandemic, that’s a mighty high budget to work off especially for a film that doesn’t seem likely to have a huge overseas market, as it touches on specifically American topics.

But there is a method to the madness here, as much as it may not work out in the studios’ favor. Spielberg films are generally built to last as the box office, with his movies generating far better legs than your average big-budget film. And the silver lining here is that seems to be the case, with it holding well from Friday through Saturday. 20th Century can thank the strong buzz around the film, with a 93% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes and an A CinemaScore which should potentially help the film leg out some.

Will that be enough for this to avoid being a bomb? Hard to say at this point. Remember, In the Heights was a very similar film in genre, style and theme but it fell short earlier this year and didn’t leg out very well either. We can blame that film’s HBO Max release for that, but it also can’t be denied that right now is a rough time for musicals. West Side Story has added $4.4 million overseas thus far for a $14.9 million worldwide start. $45 million to $50 million domestically seems achievable, and then it will be up to the international markets to help it minimize losses.

The rest of the box office performed pretty well in terms relative to the previous weekend, with Encanto down a spot to #2 in its third week with $9.4 million. That’s off just 28% from last weekend. The movie stands at $71.3 million domestically and $151.8 million worldwide, strong numbers for the film. It is still looking likely to hit around the $100 million mark in the states and should be able to hit a decent profit even against a $120 million budget.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was down a very decent 31% to $7.1 million in its fourth weekend. The revival of the franchise is now at $112 million domestically and $164.7 million worldwide, putting it in an area of profit already against its $75 million budget. Afterlife should be able to end its domestic run at around $125 million to $130 million.

House of Gucci was off 42% in its third weekend, as the drama brought in another $4.1 million. The Ridley Scott-directed film is finding its audience and will avoid being a Last Duel-level bomb, with $41 million domestically and $93 million worldwide against a $75 million budget. It will need to remain strong in order to cross the line from red to black but if it continues to hold as it is and some of the expected awards attention comes in soon, it should end its domestic run around $55 million to $60 million.

Marvel’s Eternals held even at #5, down just 24% in its sixth weekend to $3.1 million. The MCU ensemble film has now grossed $161.2 million domestically and $395.3 million worldwide, closing in on Shang-Chi’s $$418.4 million worldwide take. The film is definitely approaching hit territory, even with a $200 million budget, and is aiming for around $175 million by the end of its US run.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City showed some much-needed resilience at the box office with $1.7 million this weekend, down 39% from the previous weekend. The franchise reboot brought its domestic total to $15.9 million and its worldwide tally to $30.8 million. That worldwide number is the one that will determine whether this is a success against its $25 million budget or not, as domestically it should end at around $18 million to $20 million still.

Clifford the Big Red Dog had a very good hold after dropping hard last frame, scooping up $1.3 million (down 30%). The Paramount family has now grossed $47.7 million domestically and $62 million worldwide in five weekends, plus whatever revenue is being counted off its Paramount+ day and date release. While it won’t be a hit in theaters based on its $64 million production budget, it will be profitable once all revenue streams are in and should be closing out around $53 million domestically.

Faith-based holiday film Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers took a predictable fall, dropping 70% in its second weekend to $1.3 million. The Fathom Events release now has $13.4 million and is likely quite profitable for Loaves & Fishes Productions and Angel Studios.

Dune dropped 54% in its seventh weekend to $857,000. The sci-fi film is now at $106.2 million domestically and $389.9 million worldwide, aiming for a closing gross of about $110 million domestically. The budget was $165 million.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage popped back into the top 10, up a spot with $850,000 (down 15%). The Sony and Marvel film has had very good legs and has $212.1 million domestically and $493.4 million worldwide, a hit against a $110 million budget.

Next weekend will see the biggest opening since the pandemic, as Spider-Man: No Way Home swings into theaters. The massively-anticipated MCU film is looking at a potential $200 million opening weekend, which would be the biggest box office opening since Avengers: Endgame back in April of 2019. Interestingly, Disney is opening Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley against the film for some counter-programming options and it should be in the mid to high single digits.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. West Side Story – $10.5 million ($10.5 million total, $14.9 million WW)
2. Encanto – $9.4 million ($71.3 million total, $151.8 million WW)
3. Ghostbusters: Afterlife – $7.1 million ($112 million total, $164.7 million WW)
4. House of Gucci – $4.1 million ($41 million total, $93 million WW)
5. Eternals – $3.1 million ($161.2 million total, $395.3 million WW)
6. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City – $1.7 million ($15.9 million total, $30.8 million WW)
7. Clifford the Big Red Dog – $1.3 million ($47.7 million total, $62 million WW)
8. Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers – $1.3 million ($13.4 million, $13.4 million WW)
9. Dune – $857,000 ($106.2 million total, $389.9 million WW)
10. Venom: Let There Be Carnage- $850,000 ($212.1 million total, $493.4 million WW)