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Steven Spielberg's West Side Story has a disappointing box office debut

Yet another 2021 movie musical has disappointed at the box office.

This time, it's Steven Spielberg's new West Side Story, which grossed an underwhelming $10.5 million over the weekend. It was a soft start for a film that reportedly cost $100 million to make. The poor box office performance came in spite of the fact that the movie drew strong reviews and is an early frontrunner in the Oscars' Best Picture race. 

In the Heights, a movie adaptation of the musical of the same name by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, likewise opened under expectations in June with $11.5 million. Like West Side StoryIn the Heights generated strong reviews and Oscar buzz. Dear Evan Hansen also disappointed in September after earning weak reviews, opening with just $7.4 million even though the Broadway show was a Tony-winning hit. 

Concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may have put a dent in West Side Story's opening weekend performance. But the film earning less than In the Heights in its debut was still a surprise, considering it was a more well-known musical from a beloved director, and unlike In the Heights, it didn't have a simultaneous streaming release. 

West Side Story was also another non-franchise film to struggle at the box office in 2021. Since theaters reopened, tent-pole action and adventure films like Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have performed well, and Spider-Man: No Way Home is expected to do big business next weekend. But a number of more adult-oriented movies, including The Last Duel and King Richard, have had a harder time getting moviegoers to turn out. 

It remains possible strong word of mouth for West Side Story will allow it to pick up steam at the box office throughout the holiday season. But some experts had similar hopes for In the Heights, yet this never came to pass, as that film left theaters having grossed less than $30 million domestically.