On Sunday, Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda held a screening of Mary Poppins at Washington Height’s United Palace Theatre. The movie house, built in 1930, is not only a New York City landmark, but holds a special place in Miranda’s heart as a native of Upper Manhattan.
“This is a jewel box of a theater, especially with the death of the Ziegfeld Theatre,” Miranda exclusively told Billboard before stepping onstage to greet 2,500 guests awaiting him in the gilded theater’s plush red seats. “This is the last great movie house in Manhattan. We have an opportunity to make this a destination. It’s the most incredible theater. Anyone who walks in goes, ‘I had no idea this was here.’”
In the past, Miranda hosted a succession of “movie mash-ups” at the United Palace and even brought his critically acclaimed In the Heights musical to its stage for a five-year anniversary performance.
He has also donated $100,000 to the theater for a new DCP projection system that will achieve Hollywood-quality images for future showings. Miranda’s contribution to the “Reawaken Wonder at a Timeless Movie Palace” fundraising campaign aims to nurture and revive the venue, which also serves as a church and cultural center.
For Miranda, who uses his platform to highlight issues including the Puerto Rico financial crisis and this summer’s Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting, the generous donation was a no-brainer. “I thought, ‘How are we not showing movies here?’”
The screening of the original 1964 Mary Poppins was an apt choice, since Miranda will begin shooting Disney’s musical Mary Poppins Returns in London later this month. His character, a lamplighter named Jack, will be an interpretation of the classic Dick Van Dyke in the reimagined, 20-years-later Disney sequel directed and produced by Rob Marshall (Pirates of the Caribbean). Slated for a 2018 release, Miranda will co-star with Emily Blunt in the role made famous by Julie Andrews.
The United Palace will continue its “Reawaken Wonder” fundraiser campaign with a series of events and Indiegogo crowd-sourcing effort to reach all avenues of community support. “I put my money where my mouth is — I went halfsies,” Miranda explained to Billboard about his donation. “Hopefully people will put their money in and we’ll make this a world-class place to watch movies. I want the world to discover it.”