Sunday, May 19, 2024

UPDATED Disney’s Potential Best Picture Oscar Film, West Side Story, Opens with Disappointing $10.5 Million Box Office — High Ticket Prices to Blame?


SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Weekend total came to $10.5 million. There was intense interest on opening day, and then subsequent declines on Saturday and Sunday. Disney’s marketing geniuses had better come  up with a plan to save “WSS” instantly. This is the Best Picture of 2022.


SATURDAY AFTERNOON The first song from :West Side Story” is “Tonight, tonight…” But the second line shouldn’t be “We’ll be spending $58 on a pair of movie tickets tonight.”

Yet, Disney has made a huge miscalculation with the price of tickets for Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” At New York’s Upper West Side AMC Cinema at Broadway and 68th St. — the same corner at which “West Side Story” takes place in 1957 — seats are on sale for $27.99. That’s in the regular theater, not IMAX. The Senior Citizen price is $26.49 and the price per child is $24.99. Per child. Add in popcorn, soda, and maybe a baby sitter and you’ve got a $100 experience for a couple going to the movies– or more.

Prices are similar across the country, too.  In big cities, where “West Side Story” should be crowding in audiences today, business is understandably slow.  But $16.50 per adult in most other cities is just as much of an obstacle, especially when Americans have been trained to stay home and stream movies.

Last night,”WSS” made $3.3 million. Add in $800,000 from Thursday previews and Disney is looking at a shameful $10 million opening weekend. And this is supposed to be the movie of the year.

But for people hard hit from the pandemic, already weary and maybe out of work, struggling with record inflation at the supermarket, a $20 movie ticket is discouraging to day the least. To top that off, large sections of the country have been with severe storms this weekend, certainly a huge deterrent for buckling up and heading to a movie theater, showing a vaccination card, putting on a mask, etc.

And let’s not even talk about the price of gas.

“WSS” should have been a big family event, with discounts and encouragements. For one thing, this isn’t “Star Wars” or even “Fast and Furious.” It’s a musical. Without stars. And despite having young actors, the material is from 60 years ago. It’s music by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, two people no one under 40 have heard of. It’s not Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

What is going on here? How could Disney, the family studio, have so misunderstood the mission? And what will they do about it, quickly? Because they’re now facing a slew of stories on Monday morning that won’t be very positive. It’s a head scratcher, all right. They can only hope that a huge number of nominations announced on Monday from the Critics Choice Awards will spur audiences back into theaters. But not at those prices.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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