By Michael Paulson for The New York Times
May 12, 2020
It’s going to be quite a while before anyone sees “Hamilton” onstage again.
But there’s now another option: Disney announced Tuesday that it plans to stream a filmed version of the stage production beginning July 3 on Disney Plus.
The plan is a pandemic-prompted shift: Just three months ago, Disney announced that it was preparing the film for release on Oct. 15, 2021.
But the cancellation of all live performances, as well as the uncertain appeal of movie theaters, led the company to fast-track the film, moving up the release date by 15 months.
“In this very difficult time, this story of leadership, tenacity, hope, love & the power of people to unite against adversity is both relevant and inspiring,” Disney executive chairman Robert Iger said on Twitter.
The movie consists largely of filmed performances, featuring the original Broadway cast, shot at the Richard Rodgers Theater in June 2016. The film, like the stage production, is directed by Thomas Kail; Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical, stars in the title role.
The release date is not accidental: the musical depicts the American Revolution, and July 4 is Independence Day in the United States.
“Hamilton,” about the life and death of Alexander Hamilton, who was the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury, has been a huge blockbuster since opening on Broadway in 2015. The show won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama, as well as 11 Tony Awards, including the prize for best new musical.
The show has grossed $650 million on Broadway, where it has been seen by 2.6 million people. And, before live performances around the world were shuttered in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, it was also playing in London and several North American touring productions.
Disney Plus, with more than 50 million subscribers, has been one of the bright spots in the ailing Disney empire, which, because of its dependence on theme parks and moviegoing, has been hit hard by the pandemic.
This is not the first time Disney has changed its streaming plans as it adapts to a marketplace transformed by this unexpected moment: in March the company began streaming the animated film “Frozen 2” three months earlier than planned, citing “this challenging period.”
This is also not the only Miranda movie affected by the pandemic: a feature film adapted from his earlier musical, “In the Heights,” has been delayed. Originally scheduled to be released next month, the film is now set to be released a year later, on June 18, 2021.
In addition, Hulu is planning to stream a documentary feature about Freestyle Love Supreme, the rap improv group co-founded by Miranda, Kail and Anthony Veneziale, beginning June 5. The documentary, titled “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” is directed by Andrew Fried.