On June 10, In the Heights debuted in theaters and on HBO Max. In the Heights was originally supposed to debut in 2020, however, it was delayed like many movies were due to the pandemic. While many were anticipating this adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, that anticipation didn't translate to the box office. The film underperformed with an underwhelming $11.4 million four-day opening weekend take.
Now, this could be blamed on HBO Max. It's possible that many stayed home and enjoyed this film in the comfort of their couch instead of going to theaters. Theaters have been opening back up and are getting audiences once more, but some audience members, even the ones who are vaccinated, remain hesitant. According to Variety, "25% of multiplexes in the country remain closed." Still, many films have done well, including A Quiet Place: Part II, which has now grossed $138.6 million in its three week run.
For 2021, HBO Max has been debuting its slate of Warner Bros. films on the service along with theaters. This began with Wonder Woman 1984, which debuted on Christmas Day in 2020. Other films, like Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, have all done well at the box office, despite also debuting on HBO Max. This could be due to the fact that these films are based on popular franchises that moviegoers were excited to go see in theaters once it was safe. Other films coming to HBO Max for the second half of 2021 include Dune, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Matrix 4, and The Suicide Squad. However, this decision upset many filmmakers since Warner Bros. didn't let many know beforehand.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Warner Bros' president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein told the outlet HBO Max is not the main cause of the lackluster performance at movie theaters across the country when it comes to In the Heights. "Our experience, which is backed up on In the Heights, is that if the movie hits a high level in theaters, it hits a high level on the service," Goldstein said. "If it hits a low level in theaters, it hits a low level on HBO Max. They're really very comparable."
The box office results for In the Heights clearly doesn't stem from its reception because it may be the best reviewed film of the year so far, from both audiences and critics. The film currently has a 97% critic score and a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The musical itself won many Tony Awards, but never garnered the following that many popular musicals have like Wicked, The Book of Mormon, or Hamilton. The film also doesn't have a massive A-list celebrity attached to it. Miranda himself only has a small role in the film as the Piragua guy.
According to Variety, In the Heights has a "$55 million production budget, which means it needs to gross roughly $110 million at the global box office to cover that cost." The film also needs to cover the millions that Warner Bros. spent on marketing and keeping Miranda and director Jon M. Chu happy with its HBO Max decision. It's off to a slow start, but In the Heights could possibly see an increase in its box office due to positive word-of-mouth. Another musical, The Greatest Showman, started off slowly at the box office, but ended up as a box office sensation as more and more people either recommended it or kept going back to theaters to see it.
In the Heights is getting glowing reviews right now, so it would be a shame if it ends up as a box office flop. There could be a lot of people watching at home and we don't know the exact numbers. As Abuela Claudia says in the film, In the Heights may need to practice "paciencia y fe" in its box office numbers. This news originated at Variety.