At long last, you don’t have to be in the room where it happens.
For all those who have been unable to afford, or even find, tickets to “Hamilton,” there is going to be a solution: A filmed version of the stage performance will be distributed to movie theaters late next year.
The blockbuster musical was filmed in June 2016, during one of the last weeks when the original Broadway cast was still intact. The producers, who include the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, have been sitting on the film since, trying to weigh when would be the best time to release it to the public — while interest was still high but without damaging the multiple ongoing stage productions.
The decision: The Walt Disney Co. will release it on Oct. 15, 2021, a little more than six years after the show opened on Broadway.
This is not a feature film — that may yet happen — but an edited version of two performances captured live at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway. The filming was directed by Thomas Kail, who also directed the stage production, and is produced by Kail; Miranda; Jeffrey Seller, the musical’s lead producer; as well as Disney.
“We worked a very long time to make the very best piece of theater possible, and Tommy has translated that into an exciting film version, where you have the best seat in the house with the original cast,” Miranda said in a phone interview. “The ability to democratize this is a really rare privilege.”
Kail shot a Sunday matinee and a Tuesday night performance, before live audiences of regular ticket holders, and then shot close-ups and details with the cast in the empty theater between those performances. He cut the footage into a film some time ago, and said he will continue to polish it before next year’s release.
The film is expected to be about 2 1/2 hours long, Seller said, with two acts, each lasting 1 hour, 14 minutes. He said the creative team is still talking with Disney about how it would be presented, but that he thought some sort of intermission between the acts was likely.
Both Miranda and Kail have worked previously with Disney; Miranda as a writer, on “Moana,” and performer, in “Mary Poppins Returns,” and Kail as a director, of “Fosse/Verdon,” which was made by FX, a channel now owned by Disney. “My creative experiences with Disney have been very positive, and the reach they provide is what you want,” Miranda said.
“Hamilton,” which uses the life and death of America’s first treasury secretary to explore the nation’s revolutionary history, has been showered with praise and awards: In 2016, among other honors, it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best new musical.
“Hamilton” is still going strong on Broadway, where it is the top-grossing show each week. Since beginning performances in 2015, it has been seen there by 2.6 million people, and has grossed $636 million.
There are currently three other productions in North America — one in San Francisco, and two on tour — as well as a production in London. Another North American production will start performances next month in Los Angeles; an Australian production is scheduled to open next year; and a German production is anticipated, although no date has been set for that.
The show’s leadership team believes a movie will reinforce interest in the stage productions. “This is a complement to all the other versions of the show — in a way that the book and the documentary and the cast album are,” Kail said.
There are some precedents for the film — Spike Lee filmed the Broadway production of “Passing Strange,” and Netflix filmed “Oh, Hello.” The National Theater and BroadwayHD are among companies that have broadcast stage performances, but those tend to be live and unedited; there have also been feature films made of some stage musicals while they were still running, including “Chicago,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent,” each of which was credited with bolstering interest in the stage versions.
“I looked at the last 20 years, and there is only evidence that all audiovisual applications have driven ticket sales to all shows,” Seller said.
The release date for the “Hamilton” film is about 16 months after the release of a feature film adaptation of “In the Heights,” an earlier musical also written by Miranda.