Delayed by the pandemic, the much anticipated movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights hit broadway musical is getting its box office premiere on June 11. And despite the challenge it faces, released while we’re still living through a pandemic, with some states not yet allowing full capacity at theaters, and that it will also debut the same day on streamer HBO Max, Latino groups are doing a strong push to make sure the movie succeeds at the box office.
The National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) last month partnered with Gold House, creators of #GoldOpen, to present #LatinxGoldOpen, a social movement dedicated to ensuring opening weekend success of Latino films across the country.
The idea is that in joining forces, they can show that representation and diversity in film “means gold.” And to prove the point, they’re tapping their social media networks to promote films, as well as supporting opening weekend theater buyouts to guarantee the success of Latino-centric projects.
In The Heights highlights collaborative creative diversity in a film project stemming from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, based on a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, directed by Jon M. Chu, and with a mostly Latino cast. It also marks the kickoff of the #LatinxGoldOpen initiative, which aims to continue supporting future releases that accurately portray Latino culture.
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NALIP executive director Ben López spoke about the initiative and the goals for In the Heights and Latino films moving forward.
What do you want to accomplish with the #LatinxGoldOpen campaign?
The Gold Open Movement began by Gold House to ensure the success of multicultural films, and it has been used to support films like Parasite, Crazy Rich Asians and Minari – films that have not only enjoyed critical success, but also an incredible box office. By working with the Asian community and the Black community, the #LatinGoldOpen is an initiative that’s going to bring us together to streamline theater buyouts in both ticket prices and allow us to really affect and create demand for Latino content – not just by content creators but actually Latino content in itself in the most organic way.
How does the opening weekend play in the strategy of getting more Latino projects made?
It’s important to show up on that first weekend. Pre-pandemic numbers, the Latino community was about 25% of the box office. Combined with Asian and the Black community we’re essentially the majority of the theater in experience ticket buying public. We’re the ones that are actually saving the theater experience and we were driving the numbers and the metrics there.
I think by demonstrating and reassuring that on that opening weekend, Latino films or films made by Latinos can ensure that success. It’s going to create that critical mass. And also it’s going to create a demand for our content. So it’s really showing up in numbers, not just with single tickets. It’s going to be actual theater buyouts. Right now, we have at least 70 plus theaters that are going to be bought out en masse all over the country. So from Friday to Sunday, you’re going to see specifically we’re targeting In the Heights as the film that’s going to be a success.
This is not actually driven by the studio. Working with businesses, working with influencers, working with Latinos, with a theater owner and working with a community, this is where Latinos will definitely demonstrate their economic power, but also our influence.
What’s the plan to promote other films moving forward?
We wanted to do this initiative for In The Heights and West Side Story and a lot of different movies starting last year, but because of the pandemic we had to put it on hold. It gave us enough time to study the model to see the best way to make it more efficient. So we’re going to be testing out and creating a case study out of this. We’re hoping to grow it. And not only are you going to see in the heights being targeted, but there’s going to be additional Latino films and films made by Latinos that we’re going to get behind.
It’s not just the big studio movies. We’re also going to look at niche, arthouse-type movies that sometimes don’t have more than 5, 10 or 20 screens across the country and usually target L.A. and New York. What we want to do is help to expand that and turn those movies into hits. We’re undeniable. It’s time to inject that and undeniability into these types of efforts.
How will the #LatinGoldOpen initiative support NALIP’s mission?
For us, it’s very important, not only as an organization that strives to work on a pipeline, of representation of folks above the line, below the line – for the camera, behind the camera. I think we really have to have a strong infrastructure to really support. Everybody’s talking about the next wave of Latino content creators – la siguiente ola. We’re really trying to make this happen in the most strategic way possible.
What you’re going to see is that not just the studios, but overall as a community, we’re going to pull together. Globally, we’re also going to have an impact because we think that not just reassuring a good review of In The Heights is going to be great. But by being able to have a successful domestic hit, it’s going to also trigger that in foreign markets as well. Just thinking about Latin America alone, that’s 500 plus million eyeballs. It’s going to make a difference. It’s going to have a cascading effect.