Understanding Why Spielberg’s Woke ‘West Side Story’ Just Went Broke


Going woke and broke is always a bad idea, but joyless wokeness is very difficult to market to a global audience. And, like many other recent attempts by Stephen Spielberg to entertain audiences, the latest remake of West Side Story is mechanical and lifeless, but with a healthy dosage of scolding anyway. I mean, did you know that this movie was meant to correct the racial stereotypes found in the original? If you didn’t, then you missed their terrible marketing campaign. And now it appears the crew is doubling down. After only pulling in a paltry $10.5 million over its opening weekend, can this musical get any more broke?



Not surprisingly, other than journalists like John Nolte or David Ng, most of the mainstream press can’t figure out what happened. Here’s CNN.


The total is a bit surprising considering that the film had a lot working in its favor. For starters, it is directed by Steven Spielberg, one of the most recognizable and blockbuster directors in history. His name alone appeared to not be enough to get people to buy a ticket.

Great reviews also weren’t enough. The film, which has a stellar 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes, garnered critical acclaim as well as early Oscar buzz. Yet, despite getting an “A” CinemaScore from those who saw it, the box office returns are lackluster at best.


Some supposed that since the film didn’t use Spanish subtitles during its ample amount of scenes where Spanish was the only language spoken, that may have hurt the film’s box office. The director’s decision to not use subtitles for the Spanish scenes was framed as an attempt not to give higher power the English language, or something.



“If I subtitled the Spanish I’d simply be doubling down on the English and giving English the power over the Spanish. This was not going to happen in this film, I needed to respect the language enough not to subtitle it,” Spielberg said, adding that he did it “out of respect for the inclusivity of our intentions to hire a totally Latinx cast to play the Sharks’ boys and girls.”


Did he really say “Latinx,” a term that over forty percent of Hispanics find offensive? And speaking of offensive Latinx folk, West Side Story‘s star Rachel Zegler, who also happens to be one of Disney’s most offensive, problematic, and bigoted stars in recent memory, told the AP that the film’s lack of English subtitles is a form of respect for her upbringing and in 2021 that moviegoers need to learn Spanish. Actor David Alvarez was a bit less abrasive.



In the United States, only 13 percent of citizens speak Spanish, so that may explain the lack of enthusiasm, but is that really the only reason the film did so poorly? The movie brought in less than $5 million in international box office, so the “respect” for the Spanish language didn’t draw in a global audience either. Further hurting the film’s performance may be the simple fact that musicals just aren’t very popular with audiences. They don’t even rank in the top ten preferred film genres.


Film genres ranked according to popularity and by gender


Over at Breitbart, John Nolte has his own theory as to why the film was a bust, and I’m inclined to agree.


By far, Spielberg’s West Side Story is the worst publicity campaign I’ve ever seen. The entire campaign was premised on the new version being the “corrected” version and geared towards appeasing a group of fascist activists who make up about .001 percent of the country and represent no one, including Puerto Rican Americans.

West Side Story flopped because Spielberg came off as obscenely arrogant with all his talk about doing it right. Therefore, anyone who may have been interested in seeing it chose not to for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with the virus. Moviegoers did not 1) want to be told there was something wrong with the original (when there isn’t), did not want to 2) attend a three-hour lecture, and did not want to 3) feel excluded and shamed because they can’t speak Spanish.

Woke is death to art, which means death at the box office, which means good people get to lol every time these left-wing fascists lose money.


In fact, despite broad critical acclaim and a large fan base for the director, Spielberg’s adaptation of the famous Best Picture winner has so far proven to be a box office disaster that could cost the studio well over $100 million. As we approach the Christmas movie season, perhaps time will tell if West Side Story will be able to rebound, or even break even, but it’s pretty unlikely.


As they say, “get woke, go broke” is still in play.

Jamison Ashley

Comic geek, movie nerd, father, and husband - but not necessarily in that order. Former captain of this ship o' fools secretly training everyone's computers and snarkphone spell-checkers to misspell 'supposebly.'