In the title song for his Broadway musical “In the Heights,”
refers to the world of people who have never been “north of 96th Street” and, by extension, have never ventured to the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.
Mr. Miranda’s show, set in the bustling neighborhood, has been turned into a movie that makes its debut June 9 at the Tribeca Film Festival before going nationwide in theaters and on HBO Max on June 10—raising hopes that locals and out-of-towners alike will be inspired to pay a visit.
NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism organization, is launching a campaign tied to the film to promote Washington Heights. Created in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio behind the movie, the campaign includes various resources on the NYCgo.com website, including a guide to the neighborhood and the broader upper Manhattan area designed to help visitors take in destinations featured in the film, such as J. Hood Wright Park and the pedestrian tunnel at the 191st Street subway station.
The tourism connections might not end there. On Location Tours, a company based in the city that features tours built around “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Sex and the City” and other New York-centric films and streaming series, said it is looking into creating an “In the Heights” offering.
Mr. Miranda, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and lyricist who calls Washington Heights home, said “In the Heights” was his “love letter to this neighborhood.” It was also his biggest Broadway splash before the megahit “Hamilton.”
Mr. Miranda said he hoped “In the Heights” would inspire others to fall in love with the neighborhood, too. “Washington Heights is a vibrant community where generations of immigrants from all over the world have come to put down roots and pursue their dreams,” he said via email.
The show and film look at the sizable Latin community, from Dominicans to Puerto Ricans, in Washington Heights. Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for the musical and screenplay for the film, noted that the neighborhood is “wildly diverse” in terms of the different groups represented.
Ms. Hudes also said the neighborhood is a visual marvel, both in terms of its colorful street life—a good portion of the movie was shot around 175th Street and Audubon Avenue, she noted—and its natural, rocky topography. Capturing all that was a goal of those involved in the picture, she added.
“Filming this on location really mattered,” she said.
The question remains whether the movie will translate into more visitors to the neighborhood. Some locals are optimistic.
“People will want to know where Washington Heights is. They will want to see those places,” said Steven Almanzar, manager of La Casa del Mofongo, a popular neighborhood restaurant that serves Dominican and Puerto Rican dishes.
The “In the Heights” campaign comes at a critical time for New York City as it recovers from the pandemic and tries to rebuild tourism. Officials with NYC & Company said the campaign ties in with broader efforts to spotlight the city’s Latin heritage and communities.
NYC & Company has created campaigns tied in with other New York-centric films, such as the 2017 picture “The Greatest Showman.” The organization, however, didn’t do any marketing connected to “Joker,” the 2019 movie, with Joaquin Phoenix starring as the evil character, that included the now-famous scene on an outdoor staircase in the Bronx; the “Joker stairs,” as they have been dubbed, became a tourist destination.
NYC & Company president and chief executive officer, said the “Joker” movie “was a comic-book version of the city that wasn’t necessarily attractive.” He added that “In the Heights” is very different.
“They’ve done such a beautiful job of showcasing the vibrancy and authenticity of the neighborhood of Washington Heights,” he said.
Write to Charles Passy at email@example.com
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Source: WSJ – US News