December 12, 2021

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 12.12.2021


OPENINGS:  There’s no way to spin the $10.5M US opening of  Steven Spielberg’s WEST SIDE STORY (20th/Disney), and its even worse $4.4M start in 37 overseas territories (with $2.8M of that from France and the UK), as anything but flat-out bad.  Unlike other 2021 musicals like In the Heights ($11.5M opening even with a shared HBO Max window) and Dear Evan Hansen ($7.4M), West Side Story had a blockbuster-level budget, and all the rave reviews and all-out marketing that a film could want.  It may be that the theatrical audience for a large-scale musical like this just doesn’t exist anymore.  (Next year’s Wicked could be the exception to that rule with its family appeal.)  The only chance West Side Story has to reach anywhere near breakeven for its $200M+ in costs would be a Greatest Showman-type run that builds through and after the holidays.  It’s also unclear at this point whether box office failure will dim the film’s Oscar chances, although it’s not as though any of the competition will have anything to boast about in that respect.

Hardly anyone had interest in NATIONAL CHAMPIONS (STX), which launched at 1197 theaters with $300K, a woeful $250 weekend per-theater average.  The spin on that one is that the theatrical release was never intended as anything more than a promo for the film’s availability on premium VOD in a few weeks.  However, PVOD success is usually linked to success at the box office, so a major breakthrough at home would be an anomaly.

HOLDOVERS:  The failure of West Side Story made things easier for the box office’s veterans.  ENCANTO (Disney) dipped 28% to $9.4M in its 3rd weekend, and while its holiday prospects may be hurt by a Christmas Eve release on Disney+, it should pass $100M in the US.  Overseas, it has $80.5M after a $13.6M weekend in 47 markets.

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (Columbia/Sony) dropped 32% to $7.1M in its 4th weekend, on its way to $140M in the US.  That would be $12M higher than the 2016 installment in the franchise, and with significantly lower production costs.  Afterlife has a less impressive $52.7M overseas (the 2016 film reached $100.8M).

HOUSE OF GUCCI (UA/MGM) fell 42% to $4.1M in its 3rd weekend, and may stretch to $60M in the US, far from profit but a good result these days for an adult-aimed film.  It has $52M overseas after a $10M weekend in 63 territories.

As ETERNALS (Marvel/Disney) prepared to clear the way for its MCU stablemate, it lost 24% to $3.1M in its 6th weekend, and may get past $170M in the US.  It’s reached $234M overseas.

RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY (Screen Gems/Sony) was down 39% to $1.7M in its 3rd weekend, and can’t hope for much more than $20M in US theaters.  It’s taken in $14.9M overseas.

CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG (Nickelodeon/Paramount, also on Paramount+) shed 30% to $1.3M in Weekend 5, and should top $50M in the US before it’s done.  It has $14.3M internationally.

CHRISTMAS WITH THE CHOSEN: THE MESSENGERS (Fathom) crashed by 70% to $1.3M in its 2nd weekend, but a total that will get past $15M in the US is nevertheless an accomplishment for a production that had tiny costs and little mainstream marketing.  It hasn’t been released overseas.

LIMITED RELEASE:  RED ROCKET (A24) had a solid start with a $16.1K weekend per-theater average at 6 arthouses.  DRIVE MY CAR (Kino Lorber) expanded to 24 theaters with a $2500 average.  LICORICE PIZZA (Focus/UA/MGM) continued to hold very well in its 4-theater run, down 27% in its 3rd weekend for a $44.1K average.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The eyes of the box office are fixed on SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (Marvel/Columbia/Sony) which is poised to have the first opening of the pandemic era that looks like a pre-Covid blockbuster.  Counterprogramming will come from NIGHTMARE ALLEY (Searchlight/Disney).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."