Why Releasing Halloween Ends On Peacock And In Theaters Is A Bad Idea

In 2018, Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures teamed up to bring Michael Myers back to the big screen after nearly a decade-long absence with "Halloween." Directed by David Gordon Green, the film served as a direct sequel to John Carpenter's original 1978 horror classic, ignoring all of the previous sequels and the messy continuity they brought with them. That proved to be a winning strategy, as the film — bolstered by very solid reviews — went on to become the highest-grossing slasher film in history, taking in $255 million worldwide on a mere $10 million budget.

That, in turn, paved the way for a new trilogy that continued in 2021 with "Halloween Kills" and will conclude later this fall with the aptly titled "Halloween Ends." Green has remained in the director's chair for all three entries, with Jamie Lee Curtis also reprising her role as Laurie Strode. It's been a recipe for success up to this point, but we recently learned that Universal is now going to release "Halloween Ends" both in theaters and on Peacock on the same day, much like they did with "Halloween Kills." This is a strategy that made a bit more sense last year amidst the relative uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, but now? It seems like the studio is potentially sacrificing what is essentially guaranteed ticket sales for what appears to be very shortsighted thinking.

2022 has been much better for the box office

When Universal decided to make "Halloween Kills" a hybrid day-and-date release both in theaters and on Peacock last year, it sort of made sense. 2021 was very much a recovery year for the industry, and that recovery was very uneven. Sure, superhero movies made money and that was business as usual, but everything else seemed to be a gamble. So, despite the fact that the studio may have left some money on the table, this was a decision that hedged bets and managed to benefit Peacock, NBCUniversal's major streaming service that was looking to build its subscriber base. A mitigated win-win at the time.

But the story in 2022 is vastly different. Overall, the box office is pacing well ahead of 2021, with hits like "Top Gun: Maverick," "The Black Phone," "Jurassic World Dominion," "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," and "Elvis" raking in the big bucks well beyond superhero films like "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" or "Thor: Love and Thunder." Even with that being the case, much of August and September have been left without big releases, and the numbers suggest that there is absolutely room for some big movies right now.

"Halloween Ends" has real breakout potential in October as the only big Halloween game in town. "Smile" is coming out a few weeks before that, but there are no other big franchises getting in on the spooky season. Given that many moviegoers no longer have any hesitation about going to theaters, especially compared to last year, the time for mitigation is over. It's time to squeeze all of the juice out of big movies that there is to squeeze. And, with Regal owner Cineworld going bankrupt, it's clear that movie theaters need those movies badly right now. Things are looking up, but the industry isn't out of the woods yet.

This isn't going to save Peacock

Another major element to consider is the landscape of the industry as a whole. A year ago, every single major studio was going all-in on streaming, seeing it as the big, bright future that Netflix paved the way for. Again, 2022 changed that in a big way. We've seen time and time again that the box office remains the path to success for big movies, and that has seemingly changed the thinking for major studios when it comes to streaming.

For NBCUniversal, the financial realities must come into play at some point. Despite making big moves, like putting "Halloween Kills" on Peacock last year, the streaming service lost $1.7 billion in 2021. That's billion. With a B! The service also lost another $467 million in the most recent quarter, while subscribers are starting to flatten out. It's pretty clear that the streaming wars have hit a saturation point and that Peacock is going to have an awfully tough time catching up to the kings of the hill, like Disney+ and Netflix.

What NBCUniversal does have, though, is a robust theatrical business that is thriving right now. Universal Pictures already crossed $3 billion at the box office this year, becoming the first studio to do so since Disney did it in 2019. Theatrical releases are working for them, while Peacock is increasingly starting to feel like a sinking ship. Releasing "Halloween Ends" day-and-date, in light of the figures we have before us, begins to feel like poorly calculated corporate triage.

Movies that do well in theaters do better on streaming

Hollywood's hivemind is shifting a bit as it relates to streaming, and a big lesson has been learned in 2022 that runs counter to the thinking that was going on in 2021: Movies that are big hits at the box office tend to perform better on streaming. "The Batman" is one of the biggest hits of the year, but also was one of the biggest debuts ever on HBO Max 45 days after it first hit theaters. Warner Bros. was able to have its cake and eat it too. While I'm not defending what Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been doing as of late, it's not hard to see why, from a business perspective, they are no longer making big-budget movies for streaming exclusively.

With that in mind, it feels like "Halloween Ends" could only stand to further benefit Peacock even more after a successful theatrical run that brought more attention to it. If the idea is to get more subscribers to flock to Peacock, then why not use a strategy that seems to be working well elsewhere and maximize on both fronts? An exclusive theatrical release would almost certainly lead to higher box office returns or, at the very least, wouldn't hurt a damn thing. In turn, it could pump up demand for the film on Peacock at a later date. The information available and trends in the industry point to this being a winning strategy.

The fact of the matter is, movie theaters still need a steady stream of hits to get out of the hole they had to dig themselves into during the pandemic. Studios need to find a way to succeed in this streaming-dominated world. A day-and-date release for what figures to be a gigantic hit within a highly-successful slasher franchise makes little sense from a business perspective at this point. With apologies to those who are eager to watch Michael and Laurie's final showdown from the comfort of home on opening weekend.

"Halloween Ends" arrives in theaters and on Peacock on October 14, 2022.