“What you will see with these films is that they are broadly engaging, but also follow that young and diverse audience that represents today’s broadcast audience, the generation of consumers who choose broadcasting as their primary source of entertainment,” Ms Campbell said in an interview.
Despite falling behind some of its broadcast competitors, Peacock has had a hit this year. February was the high point, as viewers were able to watch the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl, the simultaneous release of Jennifer Lopez starring “Marry Me” in theaters and on duty, and the debut of “Bel-Air” Once. Dramatic reimagining of the hit 1990s TV series The Prince of Bel-Air starring Will Smith. (A second season is in development.)
“Retaining our services after streaming all of this special content in such a focused period of time was well above our expectations,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said on an earnings call last week. “We have seen a 25 percent increase in engagement hours year on year.”
When the pandemic turned the theater business on its head, Universal Pictures experimented with a variety of ways to distribute its films. There was a purely theatrical one like “Fast 9: The Fast Saga,” which earned $173 million when it was released last summer when coronavirus cases were lower. And there was “Sing 2,” which grossed over $160 million domestically after its December release, before moving to premium video-on-demand just 17 days after hitting theaters. The company has also experimented with simultaneous release, debuting “Halloween Kills” and its “Boss Baby” sequel in theaters and on Peacock during the height of the pandemic. The company will do it again in two weeks with the remake of Stephen King’s horror movie Firestarter.
“There is no one size fits all,” Ms. Langley said. “It’s really about looking at the individual films on the one hand, and then also at our growth engine Peacock, and doing what’s best at any given moment, depending on what’s happening in the market. I hope this will stabilize over time as the theatrical scene stabilizes. But until then, We have these electives.”
Like any studio CEO, Ms. Langley engages in the complex math of deciding what films fit in in a world where theatrical box office is 45 percent lower than it was in 2019. It’s “box office in decline,” Ms. Langley said, and it is expected that Theater remains at least 15 percent down from its pre-pandemic level in 2023.
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