The Tribeca Festival announced Friday that it will open its 2021 edition this summer with the world premiere of “In the Heights,” the eagerly anticipated movie musical conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The event adds a high-profile piece of arts programming to the statewide effort to bring the arts back after an entire year was upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
The premiere will be held at the United Palace theater in the Washington Heights neighborhood, where Miranda’s New York tale takes place. And for the first time in the festival’s 20-year history, organizers say their opening-night selection will be screened simultaneously across all five boroughs in multiple open-air venues, meaning that New Yorkers in every pocket of the city will be able to enjoy the film in a setting that poses relatively low risk of spreading the virus.
“It is such an honor to open the 20th anniversary Tribeca Festival with ‘In the Heights.’ We’re so excited to welcome them uptown!” Miranda said in a statement. “This will be an unforgettable night at the United Palace. We can’t wait to share this musical love letter to our community, with our community, in our community.”
Organizers say the 2021 Tribeca Festival, running June 9-20 and dropping “film” from its name, will be the first big movie event in North America held in person since the pandemic began. Most of last year’s film festivals, including Tribeca, were delayed, postponed, canceled or reimagined because of concerns about mass gatherings during the public health crisis.
In a news release, organizers called the Tribeca Festival the “culmination” of NY PopsUp, the statewide revitalization initiative seeking to bring back live performances and help the arts sector in New York.
For much of the last year, Broadway was dark, movies theaters were closed and concert halls were empty. But in recent weeks, some arts institutions have begun holding performances outdoors. At the same time, indoor performances have been allowed to resume in New York City with limited capacity. Earlier this month, a Broadway house opened — albeit briefly — for the first time.
Still, the pandemic persists. Although many New Yorkers are getting vaccinated, virus variants have emerged, and the city continues to average more than 3,000 new cases per day.
The premiere of “In the Heights” will probably spark some amount of joy for weary New Yorkers eager for a vibrant celebration of their city. Adapted from the Broadway show with a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes and music and lyrics by Miranda, the movie stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, a bodega owner dealing with the gentrification of his Upper Manhattan neighborhood. Miranda, who starred onstage, takes on a supporting role as the owner of a shaved-ice dessert stand.
The musical opened on Broadway in 2008 and was a critical success. It preceded Miranda’s “Hamilton,” a smash stage hit that was filmed and released last year on the small screen via Disney+. Several “Hamilton” alumni appear in “In the Heights,” including Miranda and Ramos.
Now “In the Heights” will have its moment away from the stage.
“‘In the Heights’ is the quintessential New York story of hard work, resilience, and triumph,” said Jane Rosenthal, the co-founder and chief executive of the Tribeca Festival who is also helping to lead the NY PopsUp effort.
“We are proud to feature this film as opening night,” she added, “where it can debut in its hometown in celebration of its New York roots and the Latinx community.”