In the Heights is exactly the kind of “surprise” hit that also performs “surprisingly well” in China, hence a new release date slightly farther away from F9.
A year ago this time we were writing about a flood of release date delays for what were presumed to be some of the biggest movies of 2020, with many of them shifting into 2021. It was just over a year ago that Universal shocked the industry by announcing that Trolls: World Tour would debut on PVOD along with whatever theaters happened to be open worldwide. So there is a skewed optimism in having spent the last two weeks writing about a handful of movies moving *up* on the release schedule instead of back.
Sure, F9 pushed itself back a month to June 25, while Universal sent Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru back to July 2022) As a result, Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage (originally pushed to June 25) moved to September 17. However, that Sony moved Peter Rabbit: The Runaway from June 11 to May 14, and that Paramount pushed A Quiet Place part II from September 17 to Memorial Day weekend and that now Warner Bros. is moving In The Heights from June 18 to June 11 has to count as some kind of optimism.
Yes, Warner Bros. moved the Jon M. Chu-directed adaptation of Lin Manuel-Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ In the Heights from June 18 (it was originally slated for June 26, 2020) to June 11. That makes it the only remotely “big” movie opening on that specific weekend and leaves Disney and Pixar’s Luca unopposed on June 18. Of course, there are still several movies slated for June 4 (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Sylvester Stallone’s Samaritan, Sony’s animated Vivo) so maybe one of them will join In the Heights or Luca on a less-crowded frame.
There’s a long history of adult-skewing (or not quite kid-friendly) flicks thriving alongside a Pixar debut. Think Wanted (a $50 million opening) against Wall-E ($68 million) in 2008, World War Z ($66 million) alongside Monsters University ($82 million) in 2013 or Central Intelligence ($36 million) opening concurrently with Finding Dory ($136 million) in 2016. Ironically, Matthew Vaughn’s The Kings Man (to the extent that Disney wants to compete with 20th Century Pictures) and Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard are both currently slated for August 20, so keep an eye on those two.
In the Heights dropped two trailers on last week’s Grammys telecast and in normal times would be this summer’s least surprising surprise hit both in North America and arguably in China. China has often/recently embraced distinctly “foreign” films (India’s Dangal) about distinctly American culture (Ready Player One) that often deal with “family about all else” themes (Coco) within non-Chinese families (Hobbs & Shaw). In the Heights feels like the kind of Hollywood movie China still cared about before Covid changed the game.
That WB moved it a week away from F9 (Fate of the Furious and Furious 7 both earned $392 million in China) means they might agree. And at this point, it would seem that the summer calendar is pretty much set, give or take what Disney decides to do about Black Widow. The MCU prequel is still slated for May 7 (April 30 overseas), and Bob Chapek said the other day that its theatrical fate (staying in May, remaining an exclusively theatrical title, etc.) is a “last-minute call.” Obviously if the Scarlett Johansson flick were to get pushed back a bit it would wreak about as much havoc on the summer schedule as did F9.
Disneyland is scheduled to open on April 30, and it would be a symbolic “We’re back!” touchtone to have the newest MCU flick also opening overseas that same day sans the Disney+ cushion. Not yet accounting for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Raya and the Last Dragon is fifth on Disney+’s trending list behind the usual suspects (The Simpsons, The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, WandaVision and Moana). Considering how Universal kept theaters alive in late 2020 and Warner Bros. has been doing so in early 2021, at some point Disney is going to throw themselves on the grenade.