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How ‘In the Heights’ Is Like the Democratic Party

A scene from the film In the Heights
Courtesy of Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Entertainment
Matthew Belloni
June 17, 2021

In Hollywood, box office opinions are like assholes—everyone’s got one, and the people with the biggest opinions are usually the biggest assholes. So I won’t pretend to have all the answers for why In The Heights underperformed last weekend with $11.4 million, except to say that I’ve always hated that word “underperformed.” Underperformed what? We all know how unreliable tracking has become—especially for films targeting audiences less likely to answer pre-release surveys—and studios have been lowballing their own “expectations” and over-predicting their rivals’ since the golden age.

However … it’s worth noting that just because Hollywood wants a movie to be a hit—that a movie should be a hit, that it tests through the roof and gets the reviews and reflects well on us as a moviemaking community—doesn’t mean the customers will make it a hit. Outside the media bubbles of Los Angeles and New York, where Heights was positioned and embraced as an obvious blockbuster because audiences showed up for other inclusive hits like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, this was a tough sell: unknown I.P., no stars, a traditional musical, few obvious hooks in the story. A very tough sell.