Jul 7, 2020 - Economy

"Hamilton" is a streaming hit for Disney+

Data: Google Trends; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Google Trends; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The debut of "Hamilton" on Disney+ last Friday sent downloads of the app soaring over the weekend.

Why it matters: With theaters closed until 2021, "Hamilton" is the biggest litmus test for whether Broadway will ever be able to successfully transition some of its iconic hits.

By the numbers: Users, eager to finally watch the 11-time Tony-winning show from the comfort of their homes, helped account for a 74% increase of Disney+ app downloads in the U.S. compared to the average four weekends in June, per data from Apptopia.

  • Around the globe, the app was downloaded 47% more than the average four weekends in June.

Between the lines: Disney opportunistically moved up the release by more than a year as the pandemic left viewers with barebones viewing options — major American sports are still paused and new movie and TV show production has ground to a standstill.

  • "Hamilton" joined ESPN's "The Last Dance" documentary series about the 1990s Chicago Bulls in accelerating their release dates to capture audience demand.
  • Google Trends data indicates that interest in downloading ESPN+ when "The Last Dance" was released April came nowhere close to the Disney+ surge this weekend.

Yes, but: Don't expect the success of "Hamilton" to usher in a new era of streaming for Broadway just yet.

  • Experts note that most tapings of live performances have terrible film quality, unsuitable for a streaming audience.
  • The show was filmed in 2016 using six different camera angles and featured the original cast of "Hamilton," including the show's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  • And few have the same level of cultural zeitgeist that "Hamilton" has achieved, especially as the country reckons with systemic racism dating back to the roots of its founding fathers.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has been the biggest economic crisis to hit Broadway in decades. Even during past recessions, Broadway has rallied, but with theaters physically shut, the theater community has been reeling.

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