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Tribeca Festival Returns With Highly Anticipated 'In The Heights' Premiere

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The renamed "Tribeca Festival" -- without the word "Film" -- is back in time for its 20th anniversary, after having to cancel last year.

It is opening with "In the Heights," a film created by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas was at the United Palace Theatre for the world premiere on Wednesday.

There was a flurry of activity all day. Washington Heights plays a big role in the story, helping shine a light and change the narrative about the community.

Creators Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes teamed up again, this time partnering with director Jon M. Chu, to bring the 2008 Tony Award-wining musical "In the Heights" to the big screen.

"When I was 19 and started writing this, I just wanted to write it in a place that I knew felt musical and I don't know a more musical place than Washington Heights, New York, especially in the summer," Miranda said.

Photos: 'In The Heights' Red Carpet Arrivals For Tribeca Festival

That's why it's fitting that the United Palace Theatre hosted the premiere. As Washington Heights is introduced to the world through the hopes and dreams of a Dominican bodega owner, a cast of characters and music that shows the complexity of the neighborhood.

That includes DREAMERS -- undocumented youth brought to the country as children, who are now added to the storyline. It's an issue not addressed in the Broadway production.

"This is exciting. This gives everybody a feeling of wanting to do something for themselves," Washington Heights resident Maritza Rosa-Diaz said.

"It adds to the culture. New York City being such a real melting pot. This is America," resident Akua Boateng added.

Residents already got a front-row seat, as the community was transformed into a movie set two years ago.

"They changed everything -- the faces of the store, the beauty parlor, everything. That was nice. I was there just looking around while they were doing the film," resident Cesar Soto said.

"In front of our building, they were filming, and all these kids were there listening to like, 'esa bonita bandera,'" resident Alejandra de la Rosa said.

"Really excited to see all the places that I've been to in the movie theater," resident Lisbeth Checo said.

Hundreds of locals were extras in the film, including 9-year-old Haven Ruiz.

"What was your favorite part?" CBS2's Ali Bauman asked.

"The part that I was in," Haven said.

The movie kicked off the reimagined Tribeca Festival that's returning after the pandemic forced last years cancellation -- and now reaches every borough.

WATCH: Governor Cuomo Helps Mark The Start Of The Tribeca Festival --

"Now, the movie to me tells that New York is back. It's a sign that the city is coming back to life," Washington Heights resident Kelly Kopp said.

It's a moment residents want to capture.

"I am so proud, so proud that this is happening here," one person said.

The community loves Miranda and the feeling was mutual. He blew kisses and yelled "I love you" to cheering fans outside the United Palace Theatre as he arrived on the yellow carpet.

"This movie is a love letter to the power of community. It was filmed in the summer of 2019, so it's a reminder of what life could be," Miranda said.

"It's the same spirit that we went on stage with every night. It's really awesome," said actor Christopher Jackson, who was in the original cast of "In The Heights" on Broadway.

Crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of the many stars heading to the movie's premiere.

"It's just a beautiful evolution of just what this neighborhood has been through," Washington Heights resident Flora Cohen said.

"I grew up here so, and me and my mom are a big fan of the Broadway show," young fan Eva de la Rosa Nemer said.

"It's very important for my country and for here," Washington Heights resident Denise Suarez said.

"Feels like the carnival del barrio we all were hoping for," said actress Leslie Grace, who plays Nina in the movie.

She was touched by the neighborhood's warm welcome.

"Oh my gosh, I will not cry in this moment," she said. "My family has made their living and a lot of their dreams and their memories are on this block."

The story centers around a Dominican bodega owner, played by Anthony Ramos.

"I wish I had a movie like this when I was kid. You know, growing up of Puerto Rican descent in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the projects. You know, I'm grateful that I get to watch a film now that people in a community that resembles the kind of community I grew up in," Ramos said.

Watch Aundrea Cline-Thomas' report --

"In the Heights" screened simultaneously at different locations in all five boroughs, including Pier 76 on the West Side.

"To see it with a crowd of people who really under what this means, I'm so psyched about it," CBS This Morning's Gayle King said.

"What do you hope people feel when they walk out of the movie?" Bauman asked director Jon M. Chu.

"Joy, excitement, hope for the future," he said.

Chu says it was important to make the people of Washington Heights a part of this production from start to finish.

"The end of the movie, we have our end credit sequence, and it's pictures taken by people from Washington Heights to show how they see the neighborhood," he said.

Many people both on the carpet and in the crowd told CBS2 this was their first big event since the pandemic and having the city's reopening combined with the neighborhood celebration felt happy and hopeful.

Click here for Tribeca Festival tickets and more information.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas contributed to this report.

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