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In Bid to Boost Peacock, Universal Sending 3 Movies Straight to Streaming

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“What you’ll see with these movies is that they’re broadly appealing, but additionally track towards that young, diverse audience that represents the streaming audience of today, the generation of consumers who’re selecting streaming as their primary source of entertainment,” Ms. Campbell said in an interview.

Updated 

April 29, 2022, 6:32 p.m. ET

Despite lagging behind a few of its streaming competitors, Peacock has experienced success this 12 months. February was a high point, when viewers could see the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl, the simultaneous release of the Jennifer Lopez-starring film “Marry Me” in theaters and on the service, and the debut of “Bel-Air,” a dramatic reimagining of the Nineteen Nineties hit television series “The Prince of Bel-Air” that starred Will Smith. (Season two is in development.)

“Retention on our service after airing all of this special content in such a concentrated time frame was well above our expectation,” Brian Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, said in an earnings call last week. “We’ve seen a 25 percent increase in hours of engagement year-over-year.”

When the pandemic upended the theater business, Universal Pictures experimented with a wide range of distribution methods for its movies. There was the purely theatrical 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 earned over $160 million domestically after being released in December, before going to premium video-on-demand just 17 days after its debut in theaters. The corporate has also experimented with simultaneous release, debuting “Halloween Kills” and the sequel to “Boss Baby” in theaters and on Peacock in the course of the height of the pandemic. The corporate will accomplish that again in two weeks with the remake of the Stephen King horror film “Firestarter.”

“There’s nobody size suits all,” Ms. Langley said. “It truly is about the person movies on the one hand after which also at our growth engine Peacock, and doing what’s best in any given moment, depending on what’s happening within the marketplace. I’m hopeful that this stabilizes over time because the theatrical landscape stabilizes. But until then, we do have this optionality.”

Like every other studio executive, Ms. Langley is involved within the complicated calculus of determining what movies fit where in a world where the theatrical box office is down 45 percent from what it was in 2019. It’s “a box office that’s in decline,” Ms. Langley said, with theatergoing expected to still be down no less than 15 percent from its prepandemic level in 2023.

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