What Do We Have To Do To Get a Filmed Version of 'Hamilton,' Already?
I saw Hamilton last weekend. I will now pause so that you can throw tomatoes at me.
It was glorious. You know it was glorious. The set design is amazing. Daveed Diggs is hilarious. And did you know that, during “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” we see Jefferson showing the pamphlet detailing Hamilton’s marital indiscretions to his son, Philip? Because now you do. Have fun with that knowledge.
What I came away with, other than a profound mental keysmash to the tune of SAHUDKSHAIUCGSUAHDW, was the impression that there is so, so much more to Hamilton than what you get from listening to the songs. I don’t mean that in a bragging, LOL you plebes sort of way. I fully acknowledge how damn lucky I was to be able to see it. My method involved having a friend willing to spend a shitton of money to hire someone to stand in the cancellation line for 36 hours. Also maybe sacrificing a chicken or two. The person in line behind us, a woman on vacation from North Carolina, had been in the cancellation line for three days. Three days of her vacation. Standing in line. And she almost didn’t get in. The day I was there, they changed the cancellation line, making the rules more restrictive.
People still line up. On the sidewalk. For days. You’re not allowed to bring chairs. There’s a bathroom in a nearby hotel if you need it. Shrug emoji.
Seeing Hamilton, basically, is something that the vast majority of Hamilton fans aren’t able to do. That’s true of most musicals—woe betide the theatre kid growing up in middle America—but it’s taken to extremes here: Hamilton tickets are sold out through the theatre into 2017. You can snag a seat through TicketMaster, but only if you have upwards of $500 to spend (for nosebleed!), and that’s assuming you’re already in NYC. (Which most people are not, though the F train at rush hour indicates otherwise.) Earlier this month, in a move to combat ticket scalping, Hamilton released several hundred tickets that had been part of bulk purchases. They were gone in a matter of hours. Want to win the lottery for $10 tickets? Great. So do thousands of other people per day.
It all begs the question: When are we going to get a filmed version of Hamilton, already? A livestream. A DVD. A Fathom Events-style movie theatre event, like they do with the Metropolitan Opera. Something.
The answer: It’s complicated.
Home video/streaming releases of currently running Broadway musicals are incredibly rare, for the pure and simple fact that most Broadway musicals don’t want to cut into their profits by giving potential ticket-buyers the chance to see the musical in a way that’s not buying an expensive ticket. Hamilton may generate $500,000 of profit a week, but that’s incredibly rare: An estimated 75-80% of shows lose money. Even with Hamilton, a home video release has the potential to siphon potential audience members away from upcoming touring or regional shows. When you got skin in the game, stay in the game.
In the event that Broadway shows are taped for individual consumption, it usually happens with shows that have already ended (see: the final performance of Taye Diggs Was Right: The Musical, released to theatres in 2008 and on DVD the following year) or shows that need a publicity bump. Legally Blonde: The Musical aired several times on MTV in 2007, a move that reportedly boosted their touring ticket sales.
Hamilton doesn’t need the boost.
That’s one of the arguments frustrated Hamiltonians make in favor of a home video/DVD release—it’s not like people shelling out money for a streaming video would have seen it in person anyway, because they physically are not able to do so. I’ve seen it compared to a sporting event; just because people can’t see a game in person doesn’t mean it’s not made available for sale via Pay-Per-View outlets. The producers, so the argument goes, are leaving money on the table, and being more than a bit snobby and elitist in the process. Hey. It’s Broadway.
I have no answer to the question of when—or if—Hamilton will be made available to poor, unfortunate souls who can’t afford to see it live. Lin-Manuel Miranda told Fast Company that “I am absolutely interested in as many people seeing this as possible. But not before people have had the opportunity to see it live.” Based on that, I’d guess they’re filming something with the original cast, but it won’t come out for a while, possibly years. Because it just plain doesn’t need to. So we’re all just going to have to