WEST SIDE STORY may be off to a sotto voce start, but it should do fortissimo business over the holidays.
Launching a musical drama with strong appeal to adult women 2 weeks before Christmas may not look like the smartest move in the movie distribution playbook, but Disney/20th’s WEST is a unique film at a time when traditional rules don’t apply.
Films appealing to +25F wouldn’t open pre-pandemic in early December because that audience is busy then with shopping & holiday parties. Studios used to wait until 12/25 to open such movies, making them moviegoer presents under the tree.
WEST’s 12/10 launch is the equivalent of playing 2 weeks of paid previews to let word of mouth spread until the audience becomes available. It’s a smart move only if you have a critically acclaimed film like WEST (93% RT critics) from a brand-name filmmaker (Steven Spielberg) that moviegoers love (94% RT audience).
WEST’s Oscar buzz will help drive it over the holidays. It’s already one of AFI’s Top 10 films of 2021. When Oscar voters’ new early cheat sheet, the Critics Choice noms (sorry, HFPA!), is unveiled 12/13 they’re likely to show big love for WEST & Spielberg.