It’s been three months since In the heights finally opened in theaters after being released for a full year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To say it was a one-time trip for a one-off film would be a sham. Adapted from Jon M. Chu from the musical of Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the heights was one of the first modern large studio films to have a largely Latinx cast and centered on this community in the Washington Heights of New York. It was also one of the first major films to get a theatrical appearance since the pandemic closed in theaters – while also airing on HBO Max Premiere.
“It’s hard to be on the front lines and it’s not easy to break new ground,” said Chu, who is only now beginning to look back with every perspective. He spent a few years after signing the project in 2016, just trying to make sure the film was made as he had hoped. “The amount of fights we have to go through to make room for this story, to go against the precedent in every way – I think this is a radical idea for a film.”
Chu says he found out just 30 minutes before the rest of the world that his film would not be released on June 26, 2020. It was March 24, 2020, and many parts of the country were previously closed as COVID spread. No one knew much about what the future held, much less if in a covered theater there was again a possibility.
“It was really hard because we were already talking about the power of a theatrical release at the time,” Chu says. “I knew what you could do with the marketing department of a huge conglomerate, like AT&T and Warner Bros., that would be the whole force behind a group of actors who are not normally in Hollywood movies as movie stars.”
Chu had seen it from the first witness Crazy Rich Asians, a barrier-breaking box office hit for Warner Bros. in 2018 that the career of Henry Golding, Awkwafina, in the Gemma Chan, to name a few. “I saw what a theatrical release with a group like us can do Crazy Rich Asians throw. And I knew that for you In the heights Goss, this opportunity could happen to them, “says Chu.” With these special kinds of movies, there is also a bigger shadow over it – the lead of what Hollywood could not do and break movie stars. “
Setting his feet down on the suggestion of a digital single release, Chu held a theatrical release in the summer of 2021, even though Warner Bros. “It became clear that this is the world we live in,” Chu says. “And this movie could not sit on the shelf. It had no expiration date, but it must be said in the best possible way.
When In the heights finally opened in June, it was initially hit with fire –Vanity Fair called it “A burst of communal joy … that serves as an effusive welcome back to the world.” But office numbers do not live up to expectations, possibly due to the combined reluctance of some people to return to the cinemas during the pandemic and the availability of the film on streaming. “I never had a problem with the double release – other than the parameters by which you judged the success or failure in a movie was not set, nor has it been set to this day,” says Chu.
Perhaps even more significant, opening-weekend conversation was quickly turned into a viral video of The Root‘s Felice Leon Asking Chu and Junket interviews about the lack of Afro-Latinx representation in the main cast. Miranda issued a statement apologizes for the inconvenience, and Chu now says he’s had a lot of conversations about this topic since the movie came out.
“When someone tells you they do not feel seen, it goes against everything we try to do in this movie. I was in that position, and I know what it looks like,” he says. “I always say when someone tells you says he does not feel seen, then you close the hell and you listen. And that’s what I did. “