Why ‘In The Heights’ Could Have Long Box Office Run — If Summer Blockbusters Don’t Smother It

Recent movie musicals have legged out for weeks in theaters, but Jon M. Chu’s film must hold on against ”Fast & Furious“ and Marvel competition

With critical acclaim, upbeat enthusiasm and a diverse cast, “In The Heights” seems to have the right formula to join the likes of “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” among recent movie musical hits. But unlike those films, it will have to contend with stiff summer blockbuster competition.

Because of the uncertainty of post-COVID tracking, analyst predictions for this opening weekend have ranged from $25 million to $45 million, with the higher end topping the $34.9 million made in summer 2018 by “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again.” But history shows that even if “In The Heights” doesn’t have a spectacular launch, that doesn’t mean its hopes for box office success are dashed.

“When ‘The Greatest Showman’ opened in 2017, it had a slow start, and many thought it was going to be a bust. Then it just kept going,” Boxoffice analyst Shawn Robbins said. “If a musical gets really strong word of mouth, it can leg out for well over a month in theaters.”

Indeed, “The Greatest Showman” made just $19 million in the U.S. during its first six days in December, but went on to gross $174 million domestically and $435 million worldwide. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” didn’t have as huge a multiple but still turned its modest opening into a $120.6 million domestic/$395.1 million global run.

As Robbins noted, a major reason for this is that most musicals don’t have the built-in pre-release buzz that established franchise films often have, instead relying on post-opening word-of-mouth from critics and audiences to fuel their long-lasting success. With a 97% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, “In The Heights” looks certain to have that momentum on its side.

Musicals have also been supported in their later weeks by older audiences, who typically see films later in their theatrical run. This too works in favor of “In The Heights,” as it will become counter-programming to the traditional summer blockbusters. One caveat: As with all Warner Bros. releases this year, “In The Heights” will have a simultaneous release on HBO Max, which could dampen box office.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster