In Bid to Boost Peacock, Universal Will Send 3 Movies Straight to Streaming

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

Despite lagging behind some of its streaming competitors, Peacock has experienced success this year. 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 1990s hit television series “The Prince of Bel-Air,” which starred Will Smith. (Season 2 is in development.)

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

When the pandemic upended the theater business, Universal Pictures experimented with a variety of distribution methods for its movies. There was the purely theatrical like “Fast 9: The Fast Saga,” which earned $173 million after 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 company has also experimented with simultaneous release, debuting “Halloween Kills” and the sequel to “Boss Baby” in theaters and on Peacock during the height of the pandemic. The company will do so again in two weeks with the remake of the Stephen King horror film “Firestarter.”

“There’s no one size fits all,” Ms. Langley said. “It really is about looking at the individual movies on the one hand and then also at our growth engine, Peacock, and doing what’s best in any given moment, depending on what’s going on in the marketplace. I’m hopeful that this stabilizes over time as the theatrical landscape stabilizes. But until then, we do have this optionality.”

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