Jeff Shell Upbeat on Concurrent Peacock, Theater Movie Release Strategy

When Universal Pictures released Halloween Kills on the Peacock subscription streaming platform the same time as the sequel’s box office debut on Oct. 15, the move marked NBCUniversal’s ongoing proactive steps to rejigger movie distribution in the streaming ecosystem.

Speaking on the Oct. 28 Comcast quarterly earnings call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the decision to offer $9.99 monthly Peacock subscribers (not $4.99 free ad-supported subs) early access to Jaime Lee Curtis’ return as Laurie Strode and her cursed lifelong battle against Michael Myers, paid off.

“We added a few million more subscribers,” Shell said, adding that the move, coupled with the Tokyo Summer Olympics on Peacock, energized the platform. NBCUniversal gave no updates on Peacock subscriber data, which topped 54 million sign-ups and 20 million paid subs through June 30.

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Kills, which generated $49.4 million to lead all weekend new releases, was the second movie after The Boss Baby: Family Business on July 1 to have a concurrent streaming bow. The latter, a sequel to 2017’s The Boss Baby, also topped its opening weekend box office with $16 million in ticket sales.

Shell said the results underscore the reality that streaming and box office can co-exist without cannibalizing revenue streams. The executive was instrumental in Universal taking a hatchet to the 90-day theatrical window — now releasing some titles on premium VOD just 17 days after their exhibitor debut.

“We’ve seen across all streaming platforms that movies move the dial,” Shell said. “It shows that you can play in two different markets.”

In addition to releasing select titles on Peacock and in theaters at the same time, the SVOD service in 2022 will have exclusive access to all Universal titles four months after their box office debut as part of the studio’s new Pay 1 window distribution strategy.

Shell said he remained “really excited” about the status of Peacock going forward.

“We’ve been in business for just over a year, and we’re already more than a third of where Hulu is now, which is a service that’s been more than decades in the making,” he said.

Notably, Kelly Campbell, former president of Hulu, was hired by Shell to the same position at Peacock earlier this month.

‘Halloween Kills’ Domestic Box Office With $50.4 Million Debut

Universal Pictures’ sequel Halloween Kills didn’t disappoint, generating an estimated $50.4 million in opening weekend box office revenue across more than 3,700 North American screens.

The sequel to the 2018 reboot from Blumhouse, with Jamie Lee Curtis again reprising her original teen (now grandmother) role as Laurie Strode, intent on ending the murderous reign of Michael Myers, is the highest-grossing theatrical bow for a movie concurrently available on streaming at no extra cost to Peacock subscribers.

Halloween Kills‘ opening did not match the $76 million opening for 2018’s Halloween, which heavily marketed the return of Curtis to the role that launched her career. Kills is expected to resonate strongly at the box office through Oct. 31, before it will be made available on premium VOD.

Jamie Lee Curtis as grandmother Laurie Strode in Halloween Kills

MGM/United Artists Releasing’s James Bond title No Time to Die was the week’s runner-up with more than $24.3 million, reaching nearly $100 million at North American screens ($447 million globally) in Daniel Craig’s last run as Agent 007.

Another hyped new release, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel (20th Century Studios), failed to match its $7 million to $10 million box office estimates, with less than $5 million in ticket sales. The result is disappointing for a film that reportedly cost $100 million to make — and features Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer.

Finally, Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage saw $16.5 million in ticket sales to bring its three-week total to $169.1 million, while MGM/United Releasing’s The Addams Family 2 realized $7.2 million in ticket sales ($42.3 million overall).

Box Office Forecast: Will It Be a Case of ‘Halloween Kills’ James Bond?

This weekend’s (through Oct. 17) box office battle finds James Bond being challenged by the murderous Michael Myers, who has been tormenting moviegoers since 1978 — 16 years after the first Bond movie. While both characters have survived being shot, blown up, stabbed, drowned, hacksawed and torched (Myers), the box office is a wholly different beast.

MGM/United Artists Releasing’s No Time to Die, featuring actor Daniel Craig in his supposed last performance as Agent 007, opened a week ago to a strong, yet unspectacular, $56 million North American box office. Myers’ return in Universal Pictures’ Halloween Kills marks the third release in the Blumhouse reboot that brought back original teen (now grandmother) Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

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Unlike the previous release, which was a box office and critical success, Kills will be the first in the franchise to have concurrent availability on a streaming platform. Universal is making the movie available at no extra charge to Peacock subscribers — a marketing move that could undermine ticket sales similar to the impact of HBO Max on recent Warner Bros. Pictures’ releases.

As a result, Kills is tracking to generate more than $35 million domestically, according to Universal, far below the $76 million Halloween opening weekend in 2018 — but still ahead of the projected $25 million for No Time to Die in its sophomore weekend. Interestingly, women made up nearly 50% of Halloween moviegoers in 2018.

Meanwhile, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel (20th Century Studios) makes its theatrical debut across more than 3,000 screens — featuring Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The period actioner is projected to generate more than $8 million in ticket sales.

Other returns include Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($25 million), The Addams Family 2 ($7.3 million) from MGM/UA Releasing, and Disney/Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($2.9 million).

Comcast CFO: Splitting Universal’s Pay 1 Window With Rival Streamers More Profitable

Universal Pictures’ decision to split the 18-month Pay 1 window between its sister Peacock streaming service, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is generating more revenue than prior post-theatrical/retail home entertainment iterations, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh told an investor group.

Speaking Sept. 14 at the virtual Banc of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Cavanagh said the decision to incorporate Peacock rivals in the Pay 1 window underscores NBCUniversal’s singular approach to movie distribution in the digital age.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh

“Our road to streaming is going to be our own road,” Cavanagh said. “We’ll do what makes sense to us.”

In addition to feeding the growing Peacock asset and mining incremental revenue through premium VOD with original studio movies on an accelerated timeline, Universal has revenue-sharing agreements with AMC Theatres and Regal that allow it to release titles into digital retail channels as early as 17 days after their box office debut, depending upon opening weekend ticket sales.

Universal earlier this month announced it would release horror movie Halloween Kills, the sequel to the 2018 reboot that re-introduced Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise, in theaters and on the Peacock on Oct. 15.

“We are firm believers that theatrical is important, but innovation around windowing is going to be part of what makes us successful over time,” Cavanagh said.

After Peacock’s exclusive four-month Pay 1 window, Netflix and Amazon split separate four-month periods followed by a four-month return to Peacock.

“The monies we received from third parties for that 18-month window — despite the fact we are keeping the first four months of that window — is actually more than what it had been prior to this new deal that we did,” Cavanagh said.

He said the strategy enables Universal to better leverage its theatrical content through Peacock while enabling competitive channels to mine incremental fiscal benefits for the studio.

“We think it is a long-term opportunity for us to keep the asset in our own libraries, while also giving us optionality for down the road,” Cavanagh said. “I think we served a lot of our different strategic purposes in the new windowing we did.”

Universal Pictures Delays Additional Movies, Including Sequel ‘Halloween Kills’

Universal Pictures is delaying the theatrical release of additional movies due to upticks in coronavirus infections nationwide.

The studio July 8 announced Candyman will now hit screens on Oct. 16 from its original Sept. 25 debut. Separately, The Forever Purge has been moved to July 9, 2021, from July this year, while Halloween Kills — the fiscally successful sequel to the 2018 reboot that brought back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode — has now been moved to Oct. 15, 2021, from Oct. 16, 2020.

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The new delays come as COVID-19 infections topped a record 60,000 on July 7. Outbreaks continue to spread across a number of states in the South and West including Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.

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