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A box office expert explains why ‘In the Heights’ may yet have legs after dismal opening

A woman looks up and spreads her arms as women dance behind her.
“In the Heights” star Olga Merediz tells Abuela Claudia’s story in the number “Paciencia y Fe.”
(Warner Bros.)

In the Heights,” the feature film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, failed to topple “A Quiet Place Part II” from the top spot at the box office this weekend. Coming in below analyst projections of $20 million, it brought in a measly $11.4 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The result is particularly unexpected considering the musical, which premiered simultaneously in theaters and on streaming service HBO Max, earned an A rating on Cinemascore and a 96% “fresh” score on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

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How to explain the the disappointing opening? Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, who has witnessed all kinds of box office twists and turns in his years observing movie releases, weighs in.

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“We’re still in the middle of a learning process when it comes to the theatrical performance of films that have a hybrid release strategy,” he said. “Musicals have a fairly mixed track record at the box office. Despite the high hopes and general enthusiasm for the film, this debut should not be the only metric for success.”

The “In the Heights” team can also take heart from the past example of the musical “The Greatest Showman.” Its opening weekend — without the competition of a simultaneous streaming release — was just $8.8 million, below “In the Heights.” Yet the Hugh Jackman-starring film went on to make $438 million worldwide.

Similarly, “In the Heights” could prove to have legs well into the summer box office season, Dergarabedian says. “The good news is that the film has received strong reviews and positive reaction from audiences, so at least ‘In the Heights’ delivers the goods and makes for happy subscribers and [moviegoers].”

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Paramount’s “A Quiet Place” resumed its place atop the box office in its third weekend of release, adding $11.6 million for a cumulative $108.9 million. The John Krasinski film is the first pandemic-era blockbuster to cross the $100-million mark in the U.S. and has grossed an impressive $183 million globally.

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