Why In The Heights' Director And Lin-Manuel Miranda Didn't Want The Movie To Go Straight To Streaming

Abuela Claudia in In The Heights

Lin-Manuel Miranda is an icon in the musical theaters world, eventually lending his talents to a successful career in TV and film. Years before Hamilton was a worldwide sensation, Miranda became a household name thanks to his original Broadway musical In The Heights. The hip hop musical won a whopping four Tony Awards including Best Musical, in addition to a Grammy for the soundtrack. In The Heights has been adapted into a film by Crazy Rich Asians director John M. Chu, although its been pushed back a year due to global health concerns and closed theaters. And while the Hamilton movie is heading straight to Disney+, Chu recently explained why he and Miranda are committed to a theatrical release for their upcoming movie musical.

The upcoming Hamilton movie is arriving on streaming in just a few weeks, although it's not a movie adaptation as much as its a filmed Broadway performance starring the original principal cast. But In The Heights is getting the full movie treatment, with the first trailer teasing John M. Chu's colorful vision for the upcoming film adaptation. Chu recently explained why the movie needs to be released in theaters rather than streaming, saying:

For me, we made this movie to be on the big screen, a musical of this scope, of this size. We shot it anamorphic so it could span the whole screen, the way the colors are, the way you experienced this as a community where people should be singing along, dancing in the aisles. That is something [that]—again, not all my movies, but this movie in particular, [and] Crazy Rich Asians in particular—had a very specific purpose of getting people together. That is part of the experience, not just the movie itself. And Myron and I have talked a lot about how movies affected us when we were young and its place in our culture now of getting people out of their homes, out of their cell phones, and together, to be with each other. So for this one in particular, that was a big thing for us. Of course, with Warner Brothers, they have HBO Max, which is coming. And so there’s always the temptation to put it over there. But obviously that was also not ready yet, about to come out. But at that time it wasn’t fully. And in the end of the day, that was not the experience that I particularly wanted our movie to be. And I know Lin agreed with that.

Well, that seems pretty cut and dry. Because while plenty of movies are going straight to homes as a result of theaters being closed and audiences spending time in isolation, John M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda have no interest in seeing that trend extend to the In the Heights movie. The upcoming movie musical was methodically crafted, including visuals that will read better on a big screen.

John M. Chu's comments to Vanity Fair help to peel back the curtain with the decisions made regarding In The Heights' future. No one could have predicted that theaters would be closed, and a ton of highly anticipated blockbusters were pushed back a few months to a year in time. And while there's likely some temptation to release the movie this summer on demand/streaming, that's not the path for Usnavi's story in Washington Heights.

John M. Chu brought a colorful visual style to Crazy Rich Asians, which helped make the the 2018 romantic comedy such a massive success both critically and at the box office. The first trailer for In The Heights highlighted what a cinematic journey the upcoming movie adaptation will be. Characters walk across the side of buildings, dance in the streets, and there's a particularly beautiful scene at a local pool. 

As a reminder, you can check out In The Heights' first explosive trailer below.

From looking at the this footage, you can see why John M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda would want to stand firm on giving In the Heights a full theatrical release. The movie's visuals be the at their best on the big screen, before eventually making their way to homes. But that means that the upcoming blockbuster won't be released anytime soon, as it's been pushed back to June of 2021.

Lin-Manuel Miranda himself also has a role in In The Heights, aside from being a producer and writer. He'll also be playing Mr. Piragüero aka the Piragua Guy, who gets a few vocal solos in the original musical. We'll just have to wait and see what John M. Chu has in store, and exactly how the beloved Broadway musical will translate to film.

In the Heights is currently set to arrive in theaters on June 18th, 2021. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.