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'In the Heights' notches a lackluster box office opening

"In the Heights" did not r...

Posted: Jun 13, 2021 11:51 AM

"In the Heights" did not reach the box office heights some thought it would.

The film, which is based on Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony Award-winning 2008 musical and immerses viewers in New York's vibrant Washington Heights neighborhood, brought in an estimated $11.4 million for its opening in North America this weekend, according to the film's studio Warner Bros. (Warner Bros., like CNN, is owned by WarnerMedia.)

This total was well below expectations, which projected the film to make around $15 to $20 million this weekend.

So what happened? Likely myriad things.

For starters, as much as "In the Heights" was heavily promoted and had Miranda's name attached (he also has a small role in the film), the movie possibly lacked enough awareness to get audiences to buy a ticket.

Sure, the play was an award-winning hit on Broadway, but it doesn't have the same pop culture power or recognition as Miranda's other Broadway show, "Hamilton."

The film was also released on HBO Max on the same day, which gave viewers the choice to just stay home to watch it. Whether streaming cannibalized the box office is hard to say, especially considering that streaming numbers are usually kept mostly under wraps.

But other Warner Bros. films such as "Godzilla vs. Kong," "Mortal Kombat" and last week's "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" all opened to solid box office numbers despite being available on HBO Max at the same time.

Finally, the most obvious: theaters are still rebounding from the pandemic. Many theaters across the country are at limited capacity and it may have been difficult to hook audiences for an original film that didn't have any big names attached.

"Ultimately, this is not the first musical to be hyped by the industry and fall a little short of expectations," Shawn Robbins, chief box office analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. "Maybe the timing wasn't quite right, or it simply wasn't fair to expect such big things, even pre-pandemic, from a relatively original title with mostly unknown actors."

The film has strong critical acclaim with a 96% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes, which could give it legs at the box office as the summer goes on.

"The positive outlook is that those turning out to see the movie so far are showering it with positive word of mouth," Robbins added. "That suggests the film could still have a meaningful impact over the next couple of weeks that goes far beyond the box office financials of this opening."

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