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The box office take for the much-hyped Steven Spielberg-directed remake of “West Side Story” wasn't much to sing about, as the film only brought in $10.5 million over the weekend.

This was enough for the film to debut at number one, but considering that Disney ( (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report) and 20th Century Studios spent $100 million on this remake, and theater chains such as AMC ( (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report) and Cinemark ( (CNK) - Get Cinemark Holdings, Inc. Report) have had at best an up-and-down year, the number is considered low. 

The remake was lauded by critics and has generated Oscar buzz, and the original 1961 film and the 1975 stage musical it was adapted from are often considered classics of the form, so this soft landing is a bit of a surprise. 

“West Side Story” made $1 million less than this summer’s big musical “In the Heights,” which was also available on HBO Max, and only $3 million more than the critically panned “Dear Evan Hansen.”

What Happened?

Already, Monday morning quarterbacks are offering plenty of reasons for the underperformance. 

Maybe the Zoomers just don’t like old-fashioned musicals, as Variety writer Owen Gleiberman speculated (though the success of “The Greatest Showman” indicated otherwise), and it’s getting harder than ever to get adults to go films that don’t involve a superhero, although the numbers from “House of Gucci” prove that it can still be done. 

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What Does This Mean For Theaters?

2021 has been a rough path back to normal for AMC and Cinemark. After a year away, moviegoers are returning to theaters, but cautiously. Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” debuted with $75.5 million, setting a new record for Labor Day releases. 

Thanksgiving weekend, typically one of the strongest weekends for theaters, was good but not great for the industry, with films such as “Encanto,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “House of Gucci” helping to bring in $142 million for the weekend, compared to $263 million in 2019. 

That compared to the pandemic-stressed $8.4 million haul from last year.

As TheStreet recently reported, theaters are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with streaming services such as Disney+ or Netflix, as many older viewers are content to wait until they can watch something at home. 

Theater attendance was declining even before the pandemic began, and a return to pre-pandemic numbers seems unlikely, given changes in viewer habits.

Still, a mass group of people will still go see films in the theater, as long as they are event films, and it usually helps to have a superhero in it. 

There have been massive pre-sale tickets (and the sky-high resale value) of Sony’s ( (SNE) - Get Sony Corp. Report) upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which has analysts predicting it will be the biggest film of the year, if not the biggest since the pandemic began.