Abracadabra! It only took an entire generation plus a global pandemic to gut movie theaters of major new releases but, twenty-seven years after its initial release, Hocus Pocus conjured up a relatively strong 2nd place finish at the North American box office over the first weekend of October 2020.
Originally a flop in the summer of 1993, the family flick spook fest (about three witches brought back to life in modern times after having been executed in 17th Century Salem) never ranked higher than #4 during it brief, inconsequential run.
But after years of Halloween holiday rotation on cable and streaming, the Bette Midler / Sarah Jessica Parker / Kathy Najimy comedy from director Kenny Ortega (the High School Musical trilogy) grew a cult fanbase, turning it into an annual fall viewing tradition.
Now, fueled by that nurtured goodwill and slim pickings at the multiplex, the $1.9 million weekend haul by Hocus Pocus came within $800,000 dollars of unseating Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet from the top spot. That blockbuster tentpole has remained #1 in its month-plus of release even as the pandemic has kept its overall gross at an anemic $45 million. (It’s fairing better globally, now having passed $300 million.)
That figure for Hocus Pocus, while low under normal conditions, is notable (even impressive) especially when you consider that its ticket price was at a re-release rate of $5. Meanwhile, a Tenet ticket remains at full-price, including premium rates in IMAX and Dolby Atmos theaters.
Now with the delay of the James Bond entry No Time To Die until Spring 2021 (and the remaining few 2020 tentpoles looking iffy), theater owners are going to need more well-timed seasonal nostalgia like Hocus Pocus to keep their heads above water until the life preserver known as 2021 can come along to save them.