Warner Bros. was hoping for a big summer hit with its movie adaptation of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical “In the Heights.” Instead, the movie fell below expectations and only made $11.4 million at the box office opening weekend. The film had big buzz in media circles, but that excitement didn’t translate to a strong box office.
“In the Heights” is the musical Miranda did before “Hamilton,” and is not nearly as well known. Past summer musicals have also struggled at the box office. The notable exception is “Mamma Mia,” which had big stars — something this movie did not.
The poor box office performance of “In the Heights” may have studios nervous about upcoming movie musical releases “West Side Story” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”
There’s also speculation that Warner Bros. was hoping the film would be a hit with Latinx audiences across the country, but it seems to have done well primarily in places with Puerto Rican and Dominican populations like New York and Miami, not in cities like Phoenix and El Paso.
Another wrinkle is that “In the Heights” was also streaming on HBO Max the same day it came out in theaters. It’s not apparent the film had a huge audience on HBO Max, but it kept the movie from being number one at the box office. That top spot went to “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was in its third week.
Even though “In the Heights” struggled at the box office, Jon M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda got huge paychecks because WarnerMedia had to offer them a lot of money after putting the film on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously.
That’s more than what’s being done at Disney. In his newsletter, Matt Belloni wrote about how Disney is compensating talent who appear in movies like “Cruella” that open in theaters and are available for a fee on premium video on demand. Disney has been folding revenue from the streaming debut into any bonuses stars get for box office performance, but those calculations aren’t as favorable for stars and directors as if the movie had only opened in theaters.