How ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Became a Spellbinding Hit for Disney – Deadline
It’s pretty clear from a theatrical and streaming front, Disney already dominates.
While CEO Bob Chapek has, of course, championed Disney+’s boom during the pandemic, the fact that the theater remains strong isn’t lost on the company. They will obviously conquer November with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which had taken your breath away the other night after its premiere in Hollywood. December also belongs to Disney at the box office, with 20th Century Studio’s Avatar: The Way of Water.
wakanda forever is expected to open between $175 million and $200 million, and it won’t be surprising to see if it emulates or exceeds its first chapter, which grossed $700.4 million in the United States.
The rich man’s problem for Disney is where to best leverage its IP legacy.
But it’s been a situation for Disney for decades, and a winning attribute as well. With such strong brands, Disney can traverse back and forth the ancillary pipeline from home theater, feeding its family audiences where the content is placed.
Lu, they decided to go straight to video with sequels to their animated musicals developed by Jeffrey Katzenberg as Aladdin, Lion King, etc while they even managed to reverse engineer their local hits, i.e. the High school The music franchise saw its trio hit theaters in 2008 with a stellar opening of US$42 million/Canada, grossing $90.6 million in the US, and nearly $253 million WW. Ditto for Disney Channel property Hanna Montana, who made a big transition to the screen in 2008 with Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Concerts of the best of both worlds, which had a $31 million opening in 683 theaters, still excellent for a limited release of $45,000 per theater, for a domestic gross of $65.2 million, over $70 million worldwide gross. This concert film only cost Disney $7 million before P&A.
So when it came to making a sequel to their 1993 cult family film, hocuspocus, Sean Bailey’s Disney Live Action team decided on the event on Disney+. Yes, no doubt the autumn theatrical market would have greatly supported this film. However, be aware that the films now hitting the marquee were developed around two years ago, and at a time when it was unclear if moviegoers would be back in droves. Therefore, the most responsible financial bet for a sequel to a nearly 30-year-old film with such demographics, which only grossed $44 million domestically, was on Disney+.
This despite the fact that during the first weekend of October 2020, when the New York and Los Angeles theatrical markets were closed, Disney’s theatrical re-release of Hocus Pocus led the box office with approximately $1.7 million. The re-release was something of a day-and-date release, with airing on Disney’s sister cable network Freeform two nights before its theatrical release; and photo star Bette Midler, who is live tweeting. All of this was enough of a litmus test for the Burbank, Calif.-based studio to move forward with a new team of Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters.
Yet Disney has always been aware of this film’s passionate fandom: On the sequel’s September 30 release date, teachers showed up wearing Hocus Pocus shirts at a local elementary school in Santa Clarita, Calif., reading “I Smell Children.”
Disney’s good reading of the tea leaves resulted in Hocus Pocus 2 spellbinding the masses, with the film not only being the most-watched on Disney+ to date, but snagging a Nielsen record for a streaming movie in its first weekend with 2.7 billion minutes viewed.
This success of Hocus Pocus 2 was propelled by a D-Day marketing campaign, much like the one Disney would run for one of its theatrical tent poles.
“It was the simple idea of bringing these three iconic characters back,” says Disney Studios president of marketing Asad Ayaz, “We started the campaign with the slogan ‘We’re Back, Witches.’ And that line served as the ultimate marketing hook for these three returning actresses 29 years later.
The campaign officially kicked off in June with the surprise launch of the first online trailer. This piece garnered over 43.5 million views in the first 24 hours, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive at 90% on social media metrics. The second trailer was revealed as a surprise to fans attending Disney’s D23 expo on September 9 and was posted online immediately afterwards, with that piece producing 20 million views, with the momentum continuing.
Overall, the social media universe for Hocus Pocus 2 had 201 million subscribers, enriched with personalized stickers, GIFs, character emojis and a Snapchat AR lens. There were teams with key influencers on Instagram and TikTok for hosted Watch Parties, themed crafts and recipes, beauty, drag queens and custom videos to celebrate the film. Targeted activations included a Drag Brunch & Drag Bingo takeover featuring the Sanderson Sisters in LA, NYC and Miami, as well as Hocus Pocus 2-themed direct mail to regional influencers and personalized morning show segments in ten markets the week of the launch.
Relying on a theatrical marketing tactic on Hocus Pocus 2Disney lined up 11 promotional partners that were organic to the film.
This included Airbnb recreating the Sanderson sisters’ iconic cottage in Salem, Massachusetts, making it available for booking during the film’s launch window. The Disney D23 club also organized a Hocus Pocus 2 celebration in Salem, Massachusetts for members during launch weekend.
Walgreens was not only a promotional partner, but made an appearance in the film. The National Pharmacy had personalized location and paid digital media, as well as in-store photo signage and freebies in its more than 9,000 stores.
Swiffer’s mop became Sarah Sanderson’s (Parker) new mode of transportation in the new movie, and the brand also had a custom TV spot, developed a custom digital creative, sponsored the premiere, and activated influencers.
Kellogg’s has created an exclusive cereal for Hocus Pocus 2 in approximately 400,000 boxes available in grocery stores nationwide. They partnered with Walmart for an exclusive sku that offered additional promotion with the retailer, namely a special book by Winifred Sanderson (Midler) Spells. The cover of the cereal box is the book.
Shark Ninja robot vacuums became Mary Sanderson’s (Najimy) new mode of transportation in the film, and the placement was supported by a bespoke TV spot, nationwide retail displays, sponsorship from premium quality and paid digital.
Lovesac created a custom TV spot featuring their custom ‘sactionals’ with StealthTech sound and had a placement at the film’s world premiere.
Several other brands have come on board with personalized products, including Goose Creek Candles (personalized Hocus Pocus 2 Candle line), Mooncat (varnish & accessories themes), Colourpop Cosmetics (licensed collection), Babybel (Hocus Pocus 2 packaging), all of which include online, multimedia and retail support.
And of course, having already wowed audiences on Freeform with hocuspocus, Disney once again delivered and adored this audience with a massive program that was part of the network 31 nights of Halloween programming. There were ABC logo integrations and a special look during the network broadcast of Hocus Pocus September 29. Disney has also pushed the sequel on its sister brands, with personalized historical social content in National Geographic’s social communities and heavy spot rotation on Disney Channel, FX and Hulu.
At the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts, signage and digital app exclusives were splashed everywhere, with the Anne Fletcher-directed title also making a mark at local events such as Quinceanera Expo (LA), Atlanta Black Pride Festival and Fiestas Patrias Olvera Street (LA) and activations with local sorority houses.
Further proof that the small-screen launch of Hocus Pocus 2 Didn’t taint the franchise: Photo EP David Kirschner teased that a Broadway musical version of the 1993 film is under construction.
Said Ayaz about the power of the Hocus Pocus frankness, “The film became like a Rocky Horror Picture Show in some ways, just this classic that is a whole generation of kids, families, and adults who love the movie and love how funny it is.
“What a great Halloween movie this is.”