How Did 'Hocus Pocus' Become a Monster Halloween Hit?

Hocus Pocus
'Hocus Pocus'
It flopped upon release, and now is a smashing success for Disney upon streaming and rerelease. 

We ran a story about Hocus Pocus out-earning Tenet one weekend and people called it clickbait, but it’s really not. The fact is, Hocus Pocus went from a massive flop ($39 million domestic on a $28 million budget) in 1993 to one of the most popular Halloween movies of all time. 

It’s now a profitable piece of content for Disney and something watched by people year in and out. It’s Halloween’s version of It’s A Wonderful Life

So how did any of this happen? 

Well, generational nostalgia seems the most likely culprit. 

Forbes described the movie this way: "...a painfully unfocused movie, blank-slate kid protagonists (Omri Katz as a skeptical middle-schooler and Vinessa Shaw as his crush) and a trio of overqualified adult actors (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy)."

I find that to be one of the most accurate sentences ever written. 

Hocus Pocus was not part of my upbringing. I didn’t see the movie for the first time until last year, and I found it to be one of the most painful experiences of my watching-life. 

The movie never feels like it starts until it’s almost over. And I cannot figure out what they spent the budget on because the effects are bad and the story makes no sense. But my girlfriend loves the movie and watches it every year for the spooky season. She does this because she just remembers watching it over and over again as a kid. 

Yes, this is one of Disney’s hits by association. The movie benefited from repeated airings on Disney-owned channels like ABC Family, Disney Channel, etc. These repeated viewings cemented it for a generation. And as that generation grows and has its own children, they pull out the things they are familiar with to show them. 

This is a movie about witches who have murdered children. Yet it somehow still gets a PG rating and feels even softer than that, aside from all the weird sex jokes that feel like someone did a pass to make it funnier for parents without worrying about the story making sense. 

Hocus Pocus
'Hocus Pocus'Credit: Disney
But watching this four-quadrant film makes people feel like a kid again, and that’s part of what Halloween is all about. And arguably, this ideal, which is better than the actual holiday, is perfectly reflective of the movie. 

With movies for families incredibly polarized now, it's hard to imagine a time in 1993 where these films had to serve everyone. It made them a bit of a weird mishmash. Now, when you look at the category of YA, these kinds of movies are harder to find. 

Pixar maybe straddles both kids and adults, but the only thing I can think of recently that did a decent job of this is the Dora the Explorer movie. 

It feels like we're either getting the harder PG-13 stuff, like Harry Potter and Hunger Games, or the G-rated kids-only appeal of something like Disney's Descendents. Streamers are definitely trying to find both. 

And sometimes it seems like they're in the past, and not being made now. 

What movie do you have nostalgia for that you think would be a hit on a streamer now? Sound off in the comments.     

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