The movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS came into its opening weekend with some of the best reviews of the year (95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and what seemed like a large fanbase that was ready to embrace the film as the musical event of the summer. Sadly, once the numbers came in, In The Heights massively underperformed with an opening of $11.5 million, well below its box office tracking. The film also launched simultaneously on HBO Max and those numbers were also reportedly subpar but HBO Max boss, Andy Forssell, is defending the box office performance and its dual streaming release.
Forssell spoke to The Wrap after AT&T’s second-quarter earnings call and he not only defended the film’s lackluster box office total (currently $29 million on a $55 million budget) but also its release on HBO Max. Here is what he had to say about its box office total:
“It’s so hard to gauge how much did COVID have to do with it, especially with the COVID situation changing week by week, people’s willingness to go to a theater. I just know ‘In the Heights’ did really well on HBO Max – it did sort of lower end of the range of our expectations at the box office.”
Forssell went on to discuss the assumption that the HBO Max release diminished the film’s box office performance. On this matter, Forssell doesn’t support that assertion but he doesn’t definitively say this could be why the film suffered at the box office:
“We all tend to want to draw these conclusions, but I think it’s very different title by title, and really hard to be confident that you can draw a conclusion.”
There are a few things to unpack here, beginning with its HBO Max performance. After the film’s opening weekend, Samba TV reported that In The Heights had a very muted streaming debut. Granted, Samba TV is a third party and doesn’t show the whole picture but WarnerMedia didn’t come out saying how well the film did on the platform when the narrative seemed to indicate it didn’t. This is why some believe these platforms should be more transparent with their numbers. In The Heights could’ve very well picked up steam at home but, until Forsell’s claims that it did very well for them, there would be no way to know that. It is true that it’s all different title by title. Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, and, just last week, Space Jam: A New Legacy performed well in theaters and on streaming. It really depends on what people are willing to head out for or stay home for.
Next, there’s the COVID issue regarding the box office. It’s true that the COVID situation is changing week to week and everyone isn’t comfortable going back to the movies but there has been a slew of films that opened higher than In The Heights during the pandemic. Even when movie theaters were mostly shuttered, the studio’s very own Tom & Jerry movie opened to $14.1 million. Using COVID as an excuse seems a bit like a cop-out when the real reason is likely that the film didn’t expand enough beyond the musical’s loyal fanbase.
What are YOUR thoughts on HBO Max and their response to the performance of In The Heights?