The box office resurgence that began on Memorial Day weekend is wearing off as Warner Bros.’ “In the Heights” has fallen far short of expectations with an $11.4 million opening from 3,456 screens. The musical, which debuted simultaneously on HBO Max, lost the No. 1 spot at the box office to the third weekend of Paramount’s “A Quiet Place — Part II.”
Analysts had expected Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical would earn at least a $20 million opening, with hopes that a diverse Latino cast and upbeat tone would bring audiences back to theaters. Rave reviews from critics with a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, along with event film-level marketing from Warner Bros. that constantly proclaimed the film’s connections to “Hamilton” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” was supposed to give the new release even greater momentum.
Instead, audience turnout has been far lower than the horror and blockbuster sequels that have come out so far during this pandemic recovery period. “A Quiet Place — Part II” earned $11.6 million in its third weekend, bringing its domestic total to $108.7 million. Combined with the $10 million earned by Warner/New Line’s “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” ($43.6 million total), horror has had a much stronger impact on this week’s charts than a brand new, critically acclaimed musical.
It’s not over for “In the Heights,” as audience reception has been very strong with an A on CinemaScore and a 96% Rotten Tomatoes audience score. Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak polls showed a 4.5/5 rating and 67% recommend, with Latino turnout predictably strong at 40% of the overall audience compared to 43% White. To find box office success, “In the Heights” will have to turn that post-release buzz into long legs at the box office as an alternative to upcoming tentpoles like “F9.” The good news is that musicals tend to have staying power, as “The Greatest Showman” did in 2017 by turning a $19 million opening week into a $174 million domestic run.
But to repeat the comeback success of “The Greatest Showman,” “In Tthehe Heights” will have to convince intrigued moviegoers that film isworth seeing in theaters instead of watching on HBO Max. So far this year, Warner Bros.’ decision to release all its films day-and-date on streaming and in theaters hasn’t stopped its biggest films like “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Conjuring 3” from posting solid numbers considering the state of theater reopenings at the time as each debuted.
WarnerMedia typically does not share HBO Max viewership of its movies, particularly during opening weekend. And it’s unclear how the film’s availability on streaming will impact second- and third-week audiences.
The coming weeks will also be a test of whether older audiences, which regularly support musicals during the later weeks of their box office run, feel confident enough in returning to theaters to see “In the Heights” on the big screen. Audience demographics for this weekend skewed younger, with half of audiences belonging to the 18-35 group.
Sony’s “Peter Rabbit 2” also opened this weekend, earning $10.4 million from 3,346 screens to take the No. 3 spot on the charts between “Quiet Place II” and “Conjuring 3.” The result is consistent with Sony’s projections of a $8-10 million opening and well below the $25 million opening of the first “Peter Rabbit,” as family turnout at theaters continues to lag behind pre-pandemic levels.
Still, Sony is hoping for the live-action/animated hybrid to show the same legs at the box office as pandemic releases like “The Croods: A New Age” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which both stayed in the top 5 for months with strong weekend-to-weekend holds and earned domestic runs in the $50 million range.