Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story has struggled to gain traction with audiences at the box office despite its rave reviews.

The film, based on Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, has earned $36.6 million in global ticket sales over the first three weeks appearing in cinemas. Thus far, the film has only recouped around one-third of its production costs that totaled near $100 million.

“Sounds like a write-off to me,” Eric Handler, media and entertainment analyst at MKM Partners, told CNBC. “The markets that have done the best have been New York and L.A. The film wasn’t able to grab middle America, and it didn’t seem to have that great of a penetration into the Latino community.”

The movie, distributed by Disney’s 20th Century Studios, has been up against Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has shattered expectations.

Spider-Man: No Way Home from Sony Pictures did well at the box office with its $260 million domestic weekend, swinging past initial predictions of an opening between $130 million to $150 million. The film's opening is the second biggest in North America, trailing only Avengers: Endgame ($357 million). It was also the biggest domestic opening for the month of December, beating out previous record-holder Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had an opening of $247 million, the website reported.

West Side Story’s opening weekend garnered $10.5 million in ticket sales. Its second weekend tallied sales of just $3 million despite earning a 93% “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was touted for its terrific dancing and singing performances.

″[West Side Story] was largely a victim of timing and an inability to attract younger moviegoers,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at “Women over 35 are the drivers of most musicals. Not only has that audience been the most cautious to return to public social spaces like the movie theater during the pandemic, but renewed concern created by omicron headlines seems to have played a major role in doubling down on that hesitance for the time being.”

In spite of its dismal start, some analysts expect West Side Story will pick up steam in the coming weeks as Oscar buzz grows. However, others disagree saying it is difficult to rebound.


West Side Story tells the story of two New York City teenagers from different social classes who fall in love but must navigate the struggle for control between their respective gangs.