Giant Freaking Robot
Hocus Pocus Just Did The Unthinkable
By Kevin C. Neece
October 10, 2023
This past weekend, Disney re-released the Trick-or-Treat season treat Hocus Pocus—and according to The Numbers, the film made it into the top ten at the box office. It’s the 30th anniversary of the 1993 Halloween classic, whose performance, fandom, and stature have only increased since its financially disappointing initial theatrical release. This weekend’s re-release was not heavily publicized, but the film’s ever-growing cult following brought surprisingly large audiences to the theaters.
Hocus Pocus was re-released in theaters last weekend, and it earned $1.5 million, knocking Sylvester Stallone’s Expend4bles out of the top 10.
The successful re-release of Hocus Pocus is impressive, not only because it’s a three-decade-old film that initially looked like an absolute flop, but because it earned a spot in the top ten while playing on only a little over 1,400 screens, earning $1.5 million. Not only that, it pushed the big-budget Sylvester Stallone action film Expend4bles, which is just a few weeks into its theatrical run, out of the coveted bracket. It’s a stunning turn of events for the silly, spooky movie that only managed to make $45 million in its initial theatrical run, a financial failure given its $28 million budget and marketing costs.
All the same, Hocus Pocus found a new life on home video and seasonal TV, with affection for the film only growing over the past 30 years. But part of the reason the film failed to find an audience initially was probably Disney’s puzzling decision to not only release the Halloween-themed movie in the summer movie season but to do so during the same summer Jurassic Park was released. That film was also re-released in 3-D this summer for its 30th anniversary.
The regular rotation of Hocus Pocus on The Disney Channel after its dismal box office performance helped make it, for many, practically the Charlie Brown Christmas of Halloween. Disney recognized this clear seasonal appeal for the new release, choosing an October date instead of a historically accurate one in July, which would have again challenged the legendary dinosaur epic. As the Halloween season progresses, it’s possible the Sanderson Sisters could even see an increase in their already impressive second-run box office take.
A sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released last year on Disney+, a move that again seems strange, with Disney perhaps not showing confidence in the sequel to open it in theaters despite the popularity of the original.
Starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, all of whom returned for the sequel, Hocus Pocus has been spreading spooky joy to audiences of all ages for decades. Even actor Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery and The Shape of Water fame has seen a growing surge of fandom over the years for Billy Butcherson, his scarecrow character from the films. The wacky, colorful comedy and its central trio of kooky witches are now as much a part of the zeitgeist of the Halloween season as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Hocus Pocus is going to continue with Hocus Pocus 3, officially announced for Disney+.
A sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released last year on Disney+, a move that again seems strange, with Disney perhaps not showing confidence in the sequel to open it in theaters despite the popularity of the original. Whether the Mouse House will continue to capitalize on the movie’s perennial pull is yet to be seen, but we expect there would be an audience if they did. Until then, now’s a great time to hop on a broomstick and go enjoy Hocus Pocus in a theater.