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Universal will debut ‘Halloween Kills’ on Peacock the same day it hits theaters in a big shift for the studio

  • Universal will release “Halloween Kills” simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock. 
  • It’s a shift for the studio, which has largely committed to exclusive, but shortened, theatrical windows.
  • The decision is likely to anger theater owners, who have strongly criticized simultaneous releases.

“Halloween Kills,” the follow-up to 2018’s hit horror movie “Halloween,” will debut October 15 simultaneously in theaters and on NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock.

Universal also released “The Boss Baby: Family Business” in theaters and on Peacock at the same time. But beyond that, the studio has largely committed to theatrical exclusivity during the pandemic with shortened theatrical windows. Universal released “Fast and Furious 9,” M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old,” the horror sequel “Candyman,” and more exclusively in theaters.

Before the pandemic, theatrical windows typically lasted 75 days to 90 days. Recently, Universal has struck deals with exhibitors in which it can choose to release its movies to premium video-on-demand platforms like Prime Video and iTunes after 17 days in theaters if a movie makes less than $50 million in its opening weekend at the domestic box office, and after 31 days if the movie makes more than $50 million. But that only applies to Universal movies that get exclusive theatrical releases.

“Halloween Kills” will still get a video-on-demand rollout after its theatrical/Peacock run, and then make its way to HBO under Universal’s current pay-one TV deal with the network (which is traditionally six months after it hits theaters).

Universal and HBO’s pay-one deal expires at the end of the year and Peacock will be the studio’s pay-one partner starting in 2022. In a reflection of how the pandemic has changed content windows, movies will be available on the service just four months after arriving in theaters.

2018’s “Halloween” was a box-office hit, earning $159 million domestically and $255 million worldwide with a $10 million production budget. 

Universal’s decision will likely anger the National Association of Theatre Owners, the largest theater trade group. The group’s CEO, John Fithian, said during last month’s CinemaCon that simultaneous release “doesn’t work for anyone.”

“We believe that simultaneous release cannibalizes ticket sales in favor of streaming-service viewership,” Fithian told Insider in an interview after his CinemaCon comments. 

He added that piracy is an issue for day-and-date releases, saying that “a pristine copy of that movie is made available day one that it’s in cinemas.”

Indeed, the most pirated movies of the year so far have been online in some form, either via streaming services or VOD platforms. 

But simultaneous release can still be a positive for companies looking to boost subscriber numbers for streaming platforms.

HBO Max
added 2.8 million subscribers in Q2, parent company AT&T said during quarterly earnings in July, beating forecasts and driven in part by new Warner Bros. movies that debuted day-and-date on Max this year.

And the “Boss Baby” sequel was one of Peacock’s top subscription drivers behind only the Olympic Games, according to data from the analytics company Antenna.

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