Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Moves Back a Full Year

     September 23, 2020

The constant churn of movie release dates continues. With no end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight until a vaccine can be safely administered worldwide, studios continue to shuffle and delay their major titles. This December was supposed to see the release of Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of West Side Story, but now 20th Century Studios has announced that the film, which was previously dated for December 18th, will now hit screens a full year later on December 10, 2021, primed for next year’s Oscar race. West Side Story was set up to be a holiday tentpole, but Disney clearly now believes that no one’s coming out for a musical this year.

For those who are familiar with West Side Story, the classic Broadway musical is a Romeo-and-Juliet style tale of two warring gangs in New York City, the Sharks and the Jets. When Tony (Ansel Elgort), a member of the Jets, falls for Maria (Rachel Zegler), who’s related to a member of the Sharks, it leads to tragic events. What makes Spielberg’s new adaptation intriguing is the racial aspect (the Sharks are Puerto Rican, the Jets are white) and that while the 1961 adaptation is a classic, you also have white actors in brownface in that version.

Now that West Side Story is in 2021, it will be interesting to see yet again how it compares to In the Heights, a Puerto Rican/New York City story told from the perspective of Puerto Ricans (writer Lin-Manuel Miranda won a Tony for the musical when it was on Broadway). While it’s wise never to underestimate Spielberg, I wouldn’t be surprised if In the Heights feels more immediate while West Side Story, pulling from a 1957 musical, may feel slightly outdated. Then again, it’s possible that the musicals are incredibly different and they both succeed on their own terms. We’ll find out when both movies (hopefully) arrive next year.

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