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‘In the Heights’ Does Not Reach First Weekend Expectations of Earlier HBO Max Dual Release Titles

Derek Walborn

In spite of a relentless ad campaign and great critical reviews, “In the Heights” has failed to achieve its expected success both at the box office and streaming on HBO Max. The movie, an adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical, pulled in a paltry $11.4 million across its four-day opening weekend.

“In the Heights” is one of many 2021 Warner Bros. films that were planned to split their premiere between cinemas and HBO Max in a landmark arrangement to accommodate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expectations were high for the film, especially considering the summer-time vibes of its musical subject matter and the buzz generated from the show’s Broadway incarnation.

Wonder Woman: 1984” was the first film to cash in on the hybrid release strategy, and painted a very optimistic picture for the arrangement going forward.

“’Wonder Woman: 1984’ broke records and exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service, and the interest and momentum we’re seeing indicates this will likely continue well beyond the weekend,” said Andy Forssell, EVP & GM, WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer businesses, in a statement.

In the Heights

10 juni 2021

Ljusen tänds i Washington Heights … Doften av en cafecito caliente hänger i luften precis utanför tunnelbanestationen vid 181st Street, där ett kalejdoskop av drömmar samlar invånarna i de livfulla och sammansvetsade kvarteren. I mitten av allt står Usnavi, som sparar varje öre från sitt dagliga kneg medan han drömmer och sjunger om ett bättre liv.

The comic book film also achieved theatrical success, grossing $16.7 million across 2,100 cinemas domestically and $36.1 million globally.

Godzilla vs. Kong,” according to WarnerMedia, claimed the largest streaming audience up to the point of its release on HBO Max and also generated $52 million at the box office over Easter weekend in spite of premiering at a time when lockdown and safety measures were still in full swing.

What this may ultimately mean is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Movies with huge name-and-brand recognition will, unsurprisingly, pull in an audience. Niche films, in spite of mountains of goodwill and investment, will likely still face the same uphill battles with regard to viewers that they always have, whether they’re streaming, in the theater, or — apparently, both.

According to Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein, “Our experience, which is backed up on ‘In the Heights,’ is that if the movie hits a high level in theaters, it hits a high level on the service. If it hits a low level in theaters, it hits a low level on HBO Max. They’re really very comparable.”

“It’s not really a box office vs. streaming problem,” says Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro. “‘In the Heights’ had a strong core fanbase, but it didn’t expand beyond that.”

“In the Heights,” in spite of a hefty social media ad campaign and acclaim, was most likely also bogged down due to its genre as a musical, and its case, of relatively unknown actors.

Changes in the way we consume media are also, apparently changing, once again. With restrictions on gatherings being lifted, there is a good chance that people are simply doing a whole lot of anything but watching more TV to make up for lost time.

“There was enthusiasm and hope that a movie like this would create huge interest in movie theaters because it benefits from the communal experience,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore.

HBO Max

HBO Max is a subscription video streaming service that gives access to the full HBO library, along with exclusive Max Originals, and access to every Warner Bros. film on HBO Max on the same day that it hits theaters.

HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-supported plan for TBD and ad-free plan for 89 kr. HBO Max without ads also includes features like the ability to download offline and 4K streaming.

Subscribers will have access to hit HBO series like Succession, Mare of Easttown, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more.

All HBO Max subscribers will get the full libraries of shows like “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, “The West Wing”, and more.

They also will get Max Originals that aren’t available to HBO channel subscribers, like “The Flight Attendant” (Kaley Cuoco), “Love Life” (Anna Kendrick), as well as reboots to “Sex In The City” and “Gossip Girl.”

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So what does this mean for the future of hybrid releases? HBO Max’s agreement with Warner Bros. has worked out well for the platform, having added 2.7 million subscribers in the first quarter of this year, so it’s doubtful that a single misstep will result in a thorough reexamination of the strategy.

With a few heavy hitters, like the next entry in the “Matrix” and “Suicide Squad” franchises on deck, and a planned return to a more traditional release plan for 2022 in the wings, it would appear that all avenues continue to be open as streamers and movie studios alike continue to grope in the dark as they navigate an unpredictable market for the foreseeable future.

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