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‘West Side Story’ Is Barely Beating ‘Encanto’ With $10 Million Box Office Opening

Spielberg’s musical could post a lower opening weekend total than ”In the Heights“

20th Century Studios’ “West Side Story” is off to a bad start at the box office, as it is not only falling short of box office projections but may even lose the No. 1 spot on the charts to the third weekend of Disney’s “Encanto.”

Despite the pedigree of director Steven Spielberg and incredibly strong audience and critical reception, this musical with a $100 million production budget grossed a mere $4 million from 2,820 locations on Friday, including $800,000 from Thursday previews. Industry estimates now have the film earning an opening weekend of just $9.8 million, below projections for a start in the mid-teens and the anemic $11.5 million opening of “In the Heights,” which flopped at the box office with $43 million grossed against a $50 million budget.

There’s still a chance that “West Side Story” could recover once Christmas rolls around, as films like “The Greatest Showman” have also opened to poor numbers but legged out immensely during the holiday period as moviegoing increased. Along with a 93% Rotten Tomatoes critics score and its new status as a major Oscar contender, the musical has an A on CinemaScore and a 95% Rotten Tomatoes audience score.

But the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta and Omicron variants could keep the film’s core demographic of older urban audiences home while “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is expected to gross over $100 million in its opening next weekend, squeezes out competition for younger moviegoers.

Disney’s “Encanto” is just behind “West Side Story” with $9.6 million in its third weekend, giving it a total of $71.5 million domestically. It is now the highest-grossing animated film of 2021, passing the $70.5 million domestic total of “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” It was to be expected, as “Encanto” is in the middle of a 30-day theatrical exclusive window in a time when animated films have either opened day-and-date on streaming platforms or skipped theaters entirely.

Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is third with $6.4 million in its fourth weekend and a $111 million total, while MGM’s “House of Gucci” is fourth with $4 million in its third weekend and a $41 million total. Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” completes the Top 5 with $3 million in its sixth weekend and a $161 million total.

Outside the Top 5 is STX’s sports film “National Champions,” which grossed $120,000 from 1,197 theaters on Friday for an estimated opening of $320,000. The film will be released on-demand in early January to time with the college football national championship game.