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Universal movies will go to Peacock after 45 days in theaters

A man carrying an ax walks out of a burning building.
“Halloween Kills” was released on Peacock and in theaters simultaneously. Peacock is planning to use more Universal movies to drive subscriptions.
(Ryan Green / Universal Pictures)

Streaming service Peacock is hoping to get a boost from movies made by its corporate sibling, movie studio Universal Pictures.

Starting next year, the majority of movies from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group will debut on Peacock 45 days after their theatrical release, the Comcast Corp.-owned streamer said Thursday.

This means that most Universal, Focus Features and Dreamworks Animation movies, including Blumhouse’s “The Black Phone” and Michael Bay’s “Ambulance,” will be available for streaming on the subscription service much faster than usual.

The typical gap between a movie’s debut in multiplexes and its arrival on pay TV or streaming — known as the “pay one” window — has been eight to nine months.

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Not all Universal movies will follow the new 45-day streaming model. “Jurassic World: Dominion,” for example, is expected to wait 120 days before hitting the streaming service. Another exception is “Oppenheimer,” the next film from Christopher Nolan, who is a staunch advocate of traditional moviegoing.

The decision comes as media and entertainment companies increasingly throw out old business models to better compete in the battle for streaming dominance.

Having exclusive movies has been a boon to services including WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, which this year got Warner Bros. movies simultaneously with their theatrical release.

With premium video on demand no longer an experiment, Universal’s ‘Croods’ sequel is a preview for how movies will be released after the pandemic subsides.

“As we continue investing in the most valued and sought-after content for Peacock, films are essential to that mix,” said Peacock President Kelly Campbell, who recently joined from Walt Disney Co.-owned Hulu, in a statement.

While the COVID-19 pandemic hobbled theaters last year, Universal made revenue-sharing deals with major theater circuits that allowed the studio to release movies for premium online rental as few as 17 days after their theatrical launches. Bigger movies got a window of roughly 30 days. Those deals remain in effect.

Peacock has previously experimented with early exclusive movie releases on a subscription tier, making “The Boss Baby: Family Business” and “Halloween Kills” available to paying customers at the same time as the movies opened in theaters.

Launched last year, Peacock has a free ad-supported tier and a premium version starting at $5 a month. In the most recent quarter, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell said Peacock added “a few million” monthly active accounts. The company had previously said it had 54 million signups and about 20 million active users.


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