By Hadassa Kalatizadeh
New York City is ready to call in the tourists–maybe with a little help from a musical.
The Broadway musical “In the Heights,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, mentions people who never visited the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, beckoning them to venture out. The show has been turned into a movie which will premiere on June 9 at the Tribeca Film Festival, and then go to movie theatres nationwide as well as on HBO Max on June 10. Those who have seen the movie say it has the potential to increase interest in the neighborhood “north of 96th Street”, possibly ushering in tourists from other parts of the city as well as out-of-towners.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the movie has already caught the attention of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism organization, which has decided to launch a campaign promoting Washington Heights, correlating with the film. The tourism campaign, produced in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures also includes guides and resources on the NYCgo.com website to help navigate through the neighborhood, highlighting destinations in the film, like J. Hood Wright Park and the pedestrian tunnel by the subway station at 191st Street.
Mr. Miranda, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning songwriter, lyricist, and actor who calls Washington Heights his home, said “In the Heights” was his “love letter to this neighborhood.” It also turned into his biggest Broadway hit before the explosively-popular “Hamilton.” Mr. Miranda, 41, said he hopes “In the Heights” will inspire other people to fall in love with the neighborhood as well. “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 in an email.
“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 which serves Latin dishes. The optimism comes at a time when NYC is reeling from the effects of the pandemic and will need to actively rebuild the tourism industry.
As per the WSJ, NYC & Company officials said the new campaign ties in with broader efforts to focus on the city’s diversity and its Latin heritage. Fred Dixon, NYC & Company president and CEO, said one of the things that makes the movie great for the campaign is how they filmed on location. “They’ve done such a beautiful job of showcasing the vibrancy and authenticity of the neighborhood of Washington Heights,” said Dixon.