Source: Unsplash by Sudan Ouyang
Everyone knows Hamilton, surely. Not the racer, but the smash-hit Broadway musical. It seemed to transcend from simply being a show to being a phenomenon that took the world by storm. Its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, seemed to be here, there, and everywhere afterward. Writing music for Moana and Encanto, directing the Jonathan Larsson-penned Tick, Tick… Boom!, and appearing as an actor in the likes of Mary Poppins Returns.
Before Hamilton? In The Heights.
Honesty time: I never knew about In The Heights before I discovered Hamilton. In my brief research since, it turns out it was kind of a big deal. It won the Tony Award for Best New Musical in 2008, made a star of Lin-Manuel, who wrote and starred in the show, along with the likes of Christopher Jackson. The cast featured Latino actors and actresses in the main roles, and the music had a great deal of salsa and Latin rhythms. The buzz was so big it was picked up to be made into a movie and was released in 2021.
Watching it for the first time, you have to wonder: how? How did this flop? The casting doesn’t miss, including Hamilton star Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, and Melissa Martinez. The songs are joyous, sing-along numbers that run the gamut from epics to quieter, tender moments. The choreography is on point, though the swimmer contortionist was a bit much. There isn’t an aspect in the film that leaves the viewer wanting.
But why did it flop?
COVID. You remember COVID, don’t you? 2020 was supposed to be the release for In The Heights, but it’s hard to release a film when no cinemas are open, leading to a pushback to 2021. Sadly, by the time it opened, things were no better off. While cinemas had reopened, they weren’t up to full capacity. The runtime didn’t help either, with it being a lot easier to get repeat showings of a 90-minute film than a 142-minute film.
And, of course, streaming.
They released In The Heights in cinemas and on streaming the same day through HBO Max. Essentially, they kneecapped themselves. Why go to the cinema – with all the associated costs – when you can sit in the comfort of your own home and relax with a nice film? For a film to be considered successful, you need to make your money back. Unfortunately for this film, it was a perfect storm of conspiring to stop them.
Which is a damn shame.
Because this film is so good! It is so joyous, with identifiable characters who are just trying to get through their own stuff. That same energy and rhythm you see in Hamilton is right there in this film. For Lin-Manuel’s Broadway hit to not get the audience it deserves is a tragedy. Thankfully, the film is out on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming (Amazon Prime) for all to watch.
Metrics of Success
So, it didn’t make its money back. Maybe the argument is that films cost so much these days, it’s hard to make money back unless you’re Marvel Studios. Perhaps instead, we view the film as a film – not its budget and whether it is financially viable. If we do that, perhaps you’ll find a film full of love and warmth that deserves viewing. If you can finish a film and say, “Hey, that was a great film, I loved that“, then it shouldn’t be labelled a flop but instead, a success.