Universal to release 'Halloween Kills' in theaters and on Peacock, in bid to boost streaming numbers

Key Points
  • Universal will debut "Halloween Kills" in cinemas and on Peacock on Oct. 15.
  • This is a departure from the studio's previous release strategy in which it would let a film play for at least 17 days before making it available on streaming or on-demand.
  • Placing the film on Peacock could drive more sign-ups to the streaming service.

In this article

A scene for the movie Halloween released in 2018. 
Source: Universal Studios

In a departure from its previous theatrical release strategy, Universal revealed Thursday that it would debut "Halloween Kills" in cinemas and on Peacock on Oct. 15.

The studio, which made a deal to release films for at least 17 days in theaters before offering titles to the at-home market, is looking to make its latest horror film an event and drive consumers to its streaming service.

"Halloween Kills," produced by Universal, Miramax and Blumhouse, was originally slated for a theatrical-only release. It takes place directly after 2018's "Halloween," which saw Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter and granddaughter leave the masked killer Michael Myers caged and burning in Laurie's basement.

It's unclear if Universal struck a deal with movie theater chains in switching the film's release strategy. The company came under fire in early 2020 for shifting to a day-and-date release plan for "Trolls: World Tour." At the time, this kind of release was unheard of in the industry and led Universal to negotiate with theaters to play its movies on the big screen for at least three weeks before offering them up to streaming or on-demand.

Universal's decision also comes amid renewed confidence in the domestic box office after Disney's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" smashed opening weekend estimates and set a Labor Day weekend box office record. The success of the latest Marvel film led Sony to move up its release of "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" by two weeks.

A pattern has emerged among recent movie releases that suggests that when a film is released on streaming platforms and in theaters at the same time, ticket sales at the box office are cannibalized. However, Universal may not be too worried about this, as horror films tend to have small budgets and easily make back the cost of production at the box office.

The 2018 "Halloween" had a reported budget of $10 million to $15 million. It went on to make more than $250 million globally.

Assuming "Halloween Kills" has a similar budget, even with a simultaneous release, it could become profitable in its opening weekend. After all, "Halloween" garnered nearly $80 million during its opening four years ago. Of course, with the ongoing pandemic, "Halloween Kills" likely won't reach that figure.

Currently, "Black Widow" holds the record for the highest opening weekend of a film released during the pandemic with $80 million. "Shang-Chi" is the second highest with around $75 million in ticket sales over the course of its first three days in theaters.

In foregoing some box office sales, Universal is hoping to attract audiences to Peacock. Notably, October 2020 was Peacock's most-watched month of all-time for horror and fantasy series and films. In placing "Halloween Kills" on its service, Universal could drum up significant sign-ups.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of "Halloween Kills."

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