While the other studios have seemingly moved on from day-and-date releases, Universal reminds us that hybrid releases are still a thing. It seems like every three to four months, Universal takes one of their titles and decides to give it a simultaneous release in theaters and on Peacock.
Last October, it was HALLOWEEN KILLS. Universal did it with MARRY ME on Valentine’s Day, and in May, FIRESTARTER was given a hybrid release. Now comes word that HONK FOR JESUS, SAVE YOUR soul to your , under the Focus Features banner, will be getting the same treatment over Labor Day weekend. JESUS has a compelling pedigree. It stars the immensely likable duo of Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, and it was produced by Universal darling Jordan Peele.
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to hybrid releases. In the case of HALLOWEEN KILLS or MARRY ME, the hope is that high-profile, star-driven titles will drive eyeballs to the streaming platform while being strong enough to bring in meaningful box office dollars. It’s the cake-and-eat-it-too strategy. That appeared to be the case with HALLOWEEN KILLS, which opened to $49M in theaters. That is still the largest opening for a horror film in the pandemic era. That strategy didn’t work as well for MARRY ME, which debuted to less than $8M.
Another school of thought is to take a film that will likely get blasted by critics, move it to the streaming platform, and hope that you can pull in a few bucks from theatrical with a minimal marketing spend. Exhibit A: FIRESTARTER. The film opened to less than $4M on the back of an 11% Rotten Tomatoes score.
What about JESUS? We know that the critics like it. Coming out of Sundance, the film sits at 87% fresh. So it appears as though Universal is using this film as a prestige piece for Peacock while hoping to attract a sophisticated audience in theaters
The other wrinkle here is the Jordan Peele of it all. He has made money hand-over-fist for Universal with GET OUT and US as a director. His third film behind the camera, NOPE, opens later this month. So why would Universal take one of his films – albeit a movie he produced, not directed – and move it to a hybrid release? Without a doubt, there was careful consideration given to this move.
We got the first trailer for JESUS today, so we will have a clearer idea of its theatrical prospects in the next week.
Currently, the numbers for JESUS are soft. Awareness is at 13% and interest is at 4.3.
We will certainly update the numbers after a few more fieldings. As always, stay tuned.