It's Not Only Hamilton: How Broadway Movies And Streaming Took A Major Step This Year

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in Hamilton
(Image credit: (Disney+))

Even a fabulously dramatic music number couldn’t buffer the news that is 2020 as a whole. It has not been an easy year by any means – a recent ad quite literally likened the year to being the perfect match with Satan to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story.” So, yeah, that sums it up. Every industry has been hit in a different way, with the entertainment side of things suffering a tough blow due to the large lack of gatherings in theaters whether it be for concerts, stage performances or movie showings. Though amidst the mess, streaming and Broadway joined forces in unique and unexpected ways, most notably with the massive success of Hamilton’s release on Disney+ over the summer. Every cloud has a silver lining, so let’s break into song and talk about this one.

The Golden Age of Broadway famously occurred smack dab during the events of World War II in the ‘40s and ‘50s. That's not to say we’re in wartime per se, but U.S. COVID-19 deaths do come close to American casualties of those who fought during WWII. When hard times arise, Broadway has seen a huge boom. And this most recent one comes in the form of Broadway finding a new (and additional) home on streaming. It’s actually an exciting step for the future of musicals and stage plays in Hollywood and everywhere else. Let’s talk about it:

Leslie Odom Jr, Lin-Manuel Miranda, etc Hamilton movie

(Image credit: (Disney))

Hamilton Is 2020’s Biggest Streaming Win So Far

It probably all caught fire when Disney decided to release Hamilton on its streaming service early by moving it up a year (from its original late 2021 theatrical release date) to arrive straight to Disney+ on Independence Day weekend. Six months later, Hamilton remains the most-watched new VOD movie of 2020 . Its spot at No. 1 is threatened by Wonder Woman 1984’s impending release on HBO Max on Christmas Day, but it'll make the top five, for sure.

Now, Hamilton was a huge phenomenon prior to its Disney+ release, thanks to its many award wins and strong buzz on it’s impossible-to-get tickets at its Broadway and touring productions. And sure, it didn’t have a ton of competition amidst so many release date delays, but a win is a win. Thus, Hamilton is proof that Broadway is back, baby!

Viola Davis in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Image credit: (Netflix))

Broadway Has A Larger Influence On Hollywood In 2020 Than Expected

Though it’s not Hamilton’s win that solely marks this step forward for Broadway and streaming. In the next few weeks, some of the buzziest titles are based on stories that began on Broadway. I’m referring to Ryan Murphy’s The Prom and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, both coming to Netflix this month, along with Regina King’s One Night in Miami coming to Amazon Prime. These movies (based on stage productions) are not only set to be major titles for streaming in the coming weeks, but could very well be on the Oscar shortlist.

Ahead of those releases, we’ve also seen Netflix’s The Boys in the Band, which was a feature adaptation of a play that had been revived. It included the same cast of Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, etc, and was directed by Joe Mantello, who helmed the Broadway version of his movie two years before that. It’s quite rare to see Broadway carry over like that so directly, and it certainly may have been too niche of a film to make movie theater potential, but thanks to streaming, the possibilities expand. Netflix also released its own original Broadway-esque musicals with the hit-making Jingle Jangle and even Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. Before this year, a Netflix original musical, mind three, was unheard of.

James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and Meryl Streep in Prom

(Image credit: (Netflix))

Could More Broadway Productions Come To Homes?

In other words, Broadway could come out on top, dominating 2020 in a year where there’s a lot of room for celebration to make up for some other lofty letdowns in the entertainment industry. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it too. Without the tentpole big-budget getting any airplay this year, audiences were looking for another experience and the escapism of a “show” is a good alternative when largely mid-budget dramas and comedies were making up for the difference.

It’s been the perfect time to remind movie fans how electric a movie adaptation of a stage production can be. Disney+ is already jumping at adapting the Broadway musical Once On This Island exclusively for the platform, and I can certainly see this trend continue on multiple platforms whether it be more movie adaptations of productions, future tapings of popular shows or more award-winning plays getting Oscar award potential. Hollywood loves Broadway. That’s been clear with award favorites like La La Land and just by the fact that numerous big-name actors seek out taking roles in Broadway runs. Plus, these days, so many Broadway musicals are based on Hollywood movies, like Mean Girls (which is also becoming a movie now). They are giving back to each other in really interesting ways.

Angel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

(Image credit: (20th Century Studios))

How This Win Could Look Like Moving Forward

This new Broadway boom is somewhat circumstantial, but also was coming nonetheless with all these massive studio musicals on the docket for the year before all the extra doom and gloom of 2020. I think a success like Hamilton and upcoming buzz of more Broadway titles will only inspire more on the streaming front and when theaters really get back to business. The past few years have signaled a revitalization of the musical, but a trend like this allows for more Broadway coming to homes on a smaller scale and in the form of highly-anticipated epics, like Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Jon M. Chu’s In The Heights and the movie adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen.

And since we’ll all be craving palpable experiences, when Broadway itself gets back on track, this Hollywood trend may only boost interest and even inspire more original musicals. What do you think? Has Broadway benefitted from an otherwise dumpster fire of a year? Vote in our poll and check out CinemaBlend’s 2021 release schedule.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.