‘West Side Story’ opens, Dem Congress members concerned about Discovery’s takeover of WarnerMedia

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Director Steven Spielberg is with Rita Moreno, who plays Valentina, on the set of “West Side Story.” Photo by Niko Tavernise.

Steven Spielberg’s version of “West Side Story” is opening this weekend, and while the film has received strong reviews, it may find trouble at the box office. 

Because so many movies’ release dates were pushed by the pandemic, it’s extra crowded at the holiday box office this year. And “West Side Story” will likely appeal to an older audience, the group that’s least likely to venture out to see movies in-person. 

Disney is hoping the film will remain in theaters a long time, so that by the time the Oscars roll around, the movie will have made a lot of money. But if “West Side Story” doesn’t have a strong opening weekend, it may never get that opportunity. 

“West Side Story” is a film Disney inherited from Fox, and the budget is allegedly only $100 million, but it likely costs more than that in actuality, and breaking even could be a struggle. 

Other recent musicals including “Cats” and “Dear Evan Hansen” bombed at the box office recently. A lot of people have high hopes for “West Side Story,” especially since this version includes updates to the story that make it more culturally aware and has all Latinx actors playing Puerto Ricans, unlike in the 1961 original. 

In a moment of Hollywood and politics colliding, 30 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that raises concerns about Discovery’s proposed takeover of WarnerMedia. 

Hollywood has been rife with mergers and consolidations in recent years. The combining of Disney and Fox, which led to thousands of layoffs, sailed right through the approvals process under the Trump administration. It makes sense that President Biden and a Democratic Congress would want to take a closer look at mergers in the industry, but in this case, most in Hollywood agree that Discovery’s takeover of WarnerMedia is valid because the two companies make very different kinds of content, and WarnerMedia is not thriving under ownership by AT&T. 

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