'In the Heights' Creator Vows to Wear Gorilla Suit to King Kong Screening

By Nigel Chiwaya on April 24, 2014 4:07pm 

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  Lin-Manuel Miranda will greet uptown moviegoers in a gorilla suit if the UPCA raises $15,000 by Friday.
United Palace Fundraiser
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Lin-Manuel Miranda isn't monkeying around when it comes to raising money for the United Palace

The Tony Award-winning creator of "In the Heights" is promising to don a gorilla suit Sunday in an effort to help the Washington Heights events space scrape together enough money to buy a new movie screen.

Should the UPCA's Indiegogo campaign reach the $15,000 mark by 5 p.m. Friday, Miranda will greet visitors to Sunday's screening of "King Kong" dressed as the big ape himself.

"I'm not above gorilla tactics to get us a great screen for movies in Washington Heights," Miranda tweeted Sunday.

If that doesn't bring film geeks out to the theater, a Q&A with "Blues Brothers" director John Landis before the movie is sure to fill the seats.

On Thursday Miranda expanded on the importance of getting the new screen in place.

"The United Palace is unlike anywhere else on earth, and people fall in love as soon as they walk in," Miranda said via email. "The new screen will enrich the experience of watching the film immeasurably. In time, I want our series to become a destination for film lovers everywhere."

The plot is the brainchild of UPCA staff, who two weeks ago kicked around ideas with staff on how to keep interest high for the fundraiser, which ends April 30.

"I found a suit online and texted Lin and said ‘how would you feel about a scheme where if we raised the right amount of money you would wear this before King Kong?'" UPCA Executive Director Mike Fitelson recalled. "He texted back and said: 'I would absolutely do that.'"

"I didn't hesitate for a second," Miranda added. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get us funds for our uptown movie screenings."

The campaign, which seeks to replace the Palace's decades old silver screen with a modern white screen, stands at $13,290 as of 2 p.m. Thursday.

Sunday's screening is the latest in a series of films chosen by Miranda. The 4 p.m. showing is free to the public and will feature a Q&A session with Landis, director of "National Lampoon's Animal House," and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

"I feel so lucky that we get to discuss King Kong with John Landis, who is not only one of our most beloved filmmakers in his own right, but a renowned expert on movie monsters," Miranda said. "Also, we'll hopefully get to geek out about the making of Thriller."

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