On Jan. 20, 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s newest musical, Hamilton, premiered at the Public Theatre in New York City. Within a few short months, the production was transferred to Broadway, officially opening on Aug. 6 of that same year. The production went on to win eleven Tony awards, a Grammy award, and the cast even performed for President Barack Obama.
In February of 2020, Disney acquired the distribution rights to Hamilton for the large sum of $75 million. Shortly after the announcement, Disney set a theatrical release date for the hit musical of Oct. 15, 2021. However, due to multiple factors, Disney decided to release the film on its new streaming website, Disney+ on July 3, 2020.
The first big factor in the decision to release the film online was the social justice uprising after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred all over the world this past June. Hamilton, while being a musical based in history, has a cast that is mostly BIPOC. This was not done by accident; Miranda and the executive team at Hamilton wanted to portray a certain message.
Hypable journalist Ariana Quiñónez remarked that “choosing to cast the founders of our country as people of color may not be ‘historically’ accurate, but it is culturally accurate as a reflection of a 21st century nation built by immigrants.” In the wake of the BLM protests, Disney thought it would be wise to
show a work of art that was conceived, produced, and performed by Black and other non-white performers.
The second reason is the one that kept the nation shut down for multiple months: the coronavirus
pandemic. The Broadway League, the governing body of Broadway, shut down all productions on March 12. On June 29, it was announced that Broadway stages would be dark until 2021. In order for the production to sustain cultural traction as well as finances, this was a great way for the Hamilton team to stay afloat.
The most surprising thing about this film is the fact that it was filmed over four years ago. The professionally filmed versions of live theatre are commonly called “pro-shots”. While pro-shots are common among professional theatre, they hardly ever reach the public. Most times, pro-shots are used for advertisements and archives.
One to two minute clips from pro-shots can easily be seen on YouTube, but only a few productions have released full pro-shots. Another Disney pro-shot, Newsies, was released in theatres for three days in 2017 before it was released on Netflix and Disney+. There is even an entire musical streaming website,
BroadwayHD, that launched in 2015. For $8.99 a month, musical fans can watch pro-shots of Broadway
hits like Kinky Boots, Falsettos, and Carousel.
The release of Hamilton’s pro-shot has broken barriers in modern theatre culture. People who live all over the world can now see the original cast of Hamilton for the small price of $6.99 per month. This has made one of the most successful Broadway musicals accessible to a wide audience that otherwise would not have had the opportunity to see the show. Hopefully, we will be getting more pro-shots before Broadway makes its return in 2021.
Sources: Disney+, Hypable, The Broadway League, BroadwayHD, @Lin_Manuel on Twitter