The film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony Award winning musical opened to half of industry projections.

People are ready to go back to the movies. This past weekend, however, proved that what’s showing in theaters matters.

PG-13 horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II returned to the top spot over the second weekend of June 2021. It’s the film’s third weekend overall in theaters, opening to #1 over Memorial Day, dipping to 2 last weekend just behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, before eking out an $11.65 million victory this week over the big opener In The Heights, the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s first pre-Hamiton Best Musical Tony winner.

The $11.4 million debut for In The Heights is a big disappointment on several levels, starting with the fact that pre-release projections had gauged it at making nearly twice that ($20 million). Granted, it’s also available on streamer HBO Max (which inevitably cut into Heights‘ potential multiplex haul), but recent hits like Conjuring 3 and Cruella are also available on at-home streamers (HBO Max and Disney Plus, respectively) and both still opened to over $20 million.

In addition, In The Heights appeared to be riding a solid wave of promotional and critical hype, as well as having the formidable coattails of Miranda and Ham-fans (a.k.a. Hamilton diehards, who are legion). But those coattails didn’t carry Heights nearly as far as pundits expected, revealing the musical to be more of a niche genre than anticipated (especially considering the popularity of music-based competition programming on television, which has a natural crossover into the musical theatre fanbase).

So the big question is: why?

The answer seems simple, and it’s two-fold:

  1. The horror genre puts butts in seats.
  2. Franchises are bigger draws than original stories.

A Quiet Place 2 and Conjuring 3 fit both of those criteria, and both movies are performing consistently well. Cruella fits the second criteria, working as a prequel to a legacy Disney IP.

Yet when it comes to musicals, the genre appears to have a limited ceiling.

Even a name like Lin-Manuel Miranda (who’s not only the biggest star of contemporary musical theatre but is also its biggest brand) can only carry a title so far, especially when the film’s ensemble has no other major stars to sell it (Jimmy Smits would be the most recognizable name). Producers for Heights are likely second-guessing right now whether they should’ve invested more money and effort in getting somebody like Jennifer Lopez onboard.

Still, movie musicals are known to open soft but then run on long legs. The Greatest Showman opened to a meager $8.8 million (pre-pandemic, no less, without any streaming outlet option to compete with) but went on to gross $174 million domestically. La La Land didn’t even have a normal wide release yet it steamrolled to $151 million domestically and 6 Academy Awards. As word of mouth gets out about In The Heights (as well as inspire return visits), it could enjoy a similar trajectory.

Meanwhile, A Quiet Place Part II keeps setting pandemic era records, becoming the first release since the pandemic began in March 2020 to cross the $100 million mark domestically. It currently stands at $109 million, moving past Godzilla Vs Kong, which lingers just below the nine-digit barrier at $99.7 million in North America.

The Conjuring 3‘s $10 million was enough to place it at fourth for the weekend (following its surprising #1 debut), bringing its domestic total to $43.7. Cruella stole another $6.7 million to bring its total to $56 million.

The weekend’s other big opener was Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which hopped to a third place finish with $10.4 million.

Next weekend will see mid-range offerings like the action-comedy sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and sports drama 12 Mighty Orphans land in theaters, but it won’t be until the final weekend of June when the next major franchise tentpole hits screens. That’s when F9 finally rolls into stateside multiplexes, after eating up global box office for the past month.

Leave a Reply