Fresh off his successful adaption of Hamilton on Disney plus, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s next stage play was set to premiere in theaters and HBO Max, In the Heights. The Broadway debut for In The Heights was both a critical and commercial success, with Miranda winning a Tony Award for best musical. Prior to the film’s release, the movie was creating buzz for itself because of the critical reception, with In The Heights currently standing at an astounding rotten tomatoes score of 95%. So with this much hype about the new musical starring a cast that’s rarely seen in Hollywood films, what happened?
Ultimately, In the Heights bombed at the box office. The movie had a weak opening of $11.5 million and the entire box office run projected a gross of nearly $43 million worldwide. Let’s just get this out the way now, the fact that In the Heights came out during the pandemic is one factor for why tickets sales were so low. The other is the day-to-day release on HBO Max. However, those two reasons combined don’t give the full story of In the Heights’ failure at the box office, so let’s dig deeper into the reasoning behind the shocking box office figures.
The Controversy Over Colorism Stopped Most People From Checking Out The Film
Colorism was a big talking point leading into the film’s opening weekend. The lack of Latino representation in Hollywood has been well-documented and many people believed that In the Heights was one step forward for more representation in mainstream films. However, as many noted, The New York neighborhood is the centerpiece of the story and the lack of Afro-Dominican was sorely missing. Colorism in Hollywood is nothing new, as movies such as Gods of Egpyt, the casting of Storm in the X-Men movies, and choosing light-skinned actress Zoe Saldana to play dark-skinned singer Nina Simone in her biopic are just some examples.
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the entire cast were bombarded by this controversy, with Miranda actually releasing an apology over the lack of Afro-Dominican actors. While there’s no doubt that Hollywood is doing a bit better about representation in films and media these days, there’s no denying that people were likely sick and tired of the proposed agenda that In the Heights seemingly re-enforced, which is a light-skinned cast in more appealing to audiences. To make this perfectly clear, I’m not stating that the casting agents and Lin-Manuel Miranda purposely hired light-skinned Latino actors for a specific agenda; however, there’s no denying that this issue could’ve impacted the box office gross.
Some People Didn’t Like How “Woke” The Film Appeared To Be
Despite In The Heights being an adaption that originally had a cast full of Latino characters in the play, a certain section of the movie-going audience isn’t into Hollywood’s obsession with being “woke”. The fact that Hollywood is progressing to the point where representation is prominent in most mainstream films and television is a great thing as there are too many talented actors of color who have been ignored for too long.
However, there are times when a film is trashed because of Hollywood’s shift in trying to add m0re actors of color within a film. This isn’t me saying that people are being racist against the ideas of more representation in Hollywood films, but sometimes it’s clear that an actor of color was cast mainly because of Hollywood trying to pander to a certain demographic. The 2015 Fantastic Four reboot was criticized by many because of Michael B. Jordan’s casting as Johnny Storm, who’s typically played by a white male. Another example is the pushback of DC announcing the casting of a black superman, effectively ending Henry Cavill’s reign as the cape crusader.
To many, In The Heights fell into the category of a “woke” film and some moviegoers just weren’t interested in seeing the film because of that. Of course, this is a tiny minority as films such as Black Panther, Get Out, and Creed were major successes at the box office, though the key thing about these films is that they felt like authentic stories that featured actors of color. As previously stated, the original adaption of In The Heights featured a predominant cast of Latinos, but there is a certain fanbase who view the film as Hollywood’s latest attempt at being woke.
People Just Didn’t Think That In The Heights Was Worth Going To The Theaters For
To simple answer is that people just care for the film all too much. With no big-name actors attached to the film and an Intellectual Property that isn’t too well-known in the movie world, In the Heights was not a movie that appealed to a wide audience. These days, audiences are being selective when going to the theaters and with F9 coming out a couple of weeks later, the incentive to stay home was strong, especially since the film is available on HBO Max. It didn’t help that the trailer didn’t give a good indication of what the actual plot for In The Heights is. There’s a reason why musicals are a rarity in mainstream media, which is mainly due to the fact that they tend to not do well in theaters. For every The Greatest Showman or Mamma Mia, there’s a Rocky Horror Picture or Repo! The Genetic Opera. Despite the amazing reviews and summer vibe of In The Heights, it failed to capture the attention of most movie-going fans.Henry Cavill