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Why is Prey, the new Predator movie, only on Hulu?

The Predator series may never have reached the heights of the original 1987 film – a suspenseful action classic, directed by John McTiernan and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – but its three sequels do until now deliver a reliable theatrical experience and deliver substantial returns at the box office. (The latter is also for the Trashier Alien and Predator spinoffs.)

So it was a surprise to see the latest in the series, Preygo straight streaming on Hulu. Although it has a discarded premise, presenting a clash between the alien Predator and a Comanche warrior 300 years ago, from mostly positive reviews is that it will do well in theaters if given the chance (indeed, that’s how some critics have viewed it). Prey would probably be a welcome addition to a relatively quiet late-summer release schedule for audiences and theater owners alike.

Not only that, by launching only on streaming, Prey swimming against the tide. While some studios look to boost streaming movies to boost their subscriber numbers in times of the pandemic, box office receipts have been doing well and are indeed making a comeback this year, led by extraordinary success of Top Gun: Maverick. Studios are now betting on theatrical run of popular series films – like the Predator series – to boost their profits. And they are turning away from online releases, even to the extent that Warner Bros. canceled its HBO Max Bat girl complete movie.

So what for with Prey? The answer, which is common with questions like these, is not cunning strategy, but boring business stuff – and maybe a little sour.

Predator is owned by, and Prey made by 20th Century Studios (formerly 20th Century Fox). Disney acquires 20th Century Fox in 2019. Disney also owns a majority stake in Hulu, which is where it prefers to bring in more adult-oriented content that isn’t part of the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, or Marvel brands. (In the US anyway; internationally, it all happens on Disney Plus only.)

But, by Adam B. Vary of Variety, prior to being acquired by Disney, 20th Century Fox had an agreement with HBO Max to stream all of its movies there. This agreement still applies to any films originating before the Disney merger. This explains why recent 20th Century releases like Free boy, Nightmare Alley, West storyand Death on the Nile appeared on HBO Max instead, or as well as Hulu or Disney Plus.

This is clearly worth it to Disney as they work to build their streaming audience. In case Prey, it seems the company decided it would rather forgo a theatrical release for the film than allow it to appear on HBO Max. According to an interviewing director Dan Trachtenberg gave it to UproxxDisney wants to use Prey was the first big-ticket franchise of the 20th Century to drive subscribers to Hulu.

Hulu hasn’t really had… There hasn’t been a baby 20th franchise out yet,” Trachtenberg said. “So they’re hoping to really provoke the platform to say, ‘We’re not just offering smaller, lower budget fares. That this is also a place to have huge cinematic experiences. ‘” Prey definitely a flashier proposition than recent Hulu hits like Nomadland or Palm spring.

Given the current box office situation, Disney may have chosen to offer Prey a theatrical performance, if all things are equal. But it’s not, and Disney would rather deny audiences this theater experience, and hopefully tempt them to sign up for Hulu, than let a competitor get the precious Predator IP.

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