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'In The Heights' Box Office Fizzle May Indicate An Audience Seeking Familiar Faces

Jun 14, 2021
Originally published on June 14, 2021 11:40 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The upbeat summer musical "In The Heights" was widely expected to lead the weekend at cinemas.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) In the heights...

SHAPIRO: But it did less well than expected, losing out to the third weekend of "A Quiet Place Part II," the pandemic's only hundred-million-dollar hit. So we asked critic Bob Mondello, are audiences coming back or not?

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hollywood's been looking for signs of box office life since the start of the pandemic. And, well, "Wonder Woman '84" wasn't a catastrophe. "Godzilla vs. Kong" sort of roared for a few days. Then with "A Quiet Place II," there was finally something to shout about.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A QUIET PLACE PART II")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Oh, my...

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR CRASHING)

MONDELLO: The thriller got off to a better start than the original "Quiet Place," and the "101 Dalmatians" spinoff "Cruella" did pretty well at the same time. Cue Hollywood rejoicing. But notice something about all those movies. They're star-vehicles. Don't tell me Godzilla isn't a star. And they're sequels. The audience knows what it's getting. "In The Heights" - not so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

ANTHONY RAMOS: (As Usnavi de la Vega, rapping) I am Usnavi, and you've probably never heard my name.

MONDELLO: If you didn't know Usnavi's name, you weren't alone. "In The Heights" was a Broadway hit, but it closed more than a decade ago. And there were other issues - no bankable stars, and musicals appeal to an older crowd that might not want to go to the multiplex during a pandemic, especially when the film's streaming from Day 1. Also - and you may have gathered this from the title - "In The Heights" is about a neighborhood.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

DEAN SCOTT VAZQUEZ: (As Sedo) That's it? No story?

MONDELLO: Lots of dancing, but there isn't really a plot.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

RAMOS: (As Usnavi de la Vega) The streets were made of music.

MONDELLO: So expecting it to be a box office smash - probably wishful thinking. On the other hand, when "F9" opens, it will not be streaming. And in China, where the pandemic is largely under control, it's already made a fast - and presumably furious - $200 million, so let's check back in next week.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ SNAKE SONG, "FREQUENCY 75") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.