In late April of this year, a glowing Jamie Lee Curtis took the stage at the Colosseum Theater at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to applaud theater owners and trumpet the unparalleled experience of seeing a movie in cinemas with other people, an experience she plugged for her upcoming movie, Halloween Ends.
“When you scream, you scream louder when people are near you. When you feel something, you feel deeper when other people are right next to you,” said Curtis. “You don’t get that experience with movies in your living room. You get it in movie theaters.”
Flash-forward to Aug. 23 when Curtis made the surprise announcement on social media that Halloween Ends will open simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock on Oct. 14.
While theater owners were surprised by the decision, according to several sources, most chains are expected to play the high-profile horror film since Universal will wage a major theatrical marketing campaign. Also, the Universal film empire has engendered goodwill by releasing more movies theatrically than any other studio this year as the industry emerges from the pandemic.
Among the circuits that will show the horror pic is AMC Theaters, the country’s largest circuit, according to a source.
The previous film in the series, Halloween Killsalso debuted day-and-date on Peacock in October 2021, although the COVID-19 crisis was much more of an issue then.
Day-and-date releases became commonplace during the pandemic, but exhibitors had hoped that studios — many of whom are trying to grow their sister streaming services — would move away from that practice as the box office recovers. Moviegoing has boomed for much of this summer, reminding studios of the financial benefits of theatrical.
Cinemas, however, would be hard-pressed to boycott Halloween Endsconsidering that the September and October calendars are notably light of high-profile fare, unlike the April-July corridor.
Halloween Ends will be available to stream to those who have a paid subscription to Peacock Premium or Premium Plus. The free, ad-supported version will not carry the film.
The pic is the third and final installment in a rebooted Halloween franchise starring original actor Curtis and hailing from director David Gordon Green and horror super-producer Jason Blum. Halloween (2018) earned $255 million globally on a $10 million budget, while the sequel, Halloween Kills, earned $131 million. The third chapter picks up four years later Kills.
The film also stars Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, Omar Dorsey, Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney. Malek Akkad and Bill Block produce alongside Blum.
Cinemark Theaters and Regal Cinemas did not respond to a request for comment. Nor would AMC officially confirm its plans.
No one is surprised that theaters aren’t up-in-arms over the decision to collapse the theatrical window entirely, even if they don’t like it.
“It may not be a cool move, but we have a tough calendar ahead of us,” says one top exhibition source. “There are no hard and fast rules anymore. One of the most important things is a proper theatrical marketing spend, which Universal will do.”
It is not a surprise that Comcast, owner of Universal and Peacock, wants to bolster its lagging streaming service. In its latest earnings disclosure on July 28, Comcast said that Peacock had 13 million paid subscribers and 28 million active monthly accounts. The company took a $467 million loss related to Peacock last quarter, up from $363 million in the year-ago quarter.
“It shows there is still at least one corporation who is still willing to sacrifice some box office revenue to try and drive subs with their SVOD platforms,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners. “I imagine Comcast (Universal) also thinks the window of interest for fans of Halloween Ends has a very finite life, in this case a little more than two weeks, and it will try and get the most out of the movie in that time frame.”
As for Curtis, she explained the move by looking back at Halloween Kills‘ day-and-date debut a year ago.
“We discovered there are people who want to go to the theater and scream their guts out. We also discovered that there are people who want to stay at home and scream their guts out. We got great results both from the box office and from streaming,” Curtis said in her Aug. 23 Instagram videos. “This year, we want to make sure as many people can see Halloween Ends before Halloween, so we decided to give that same gift to fans again.”
Curtis added that she herself would choose to see it in a theater first.