‘Hocus Pocus’ Tops 2020’s Re-Release Charts, Unseats 2 Mainstream Hits

2020 has been an odd year for the movie industry. While most movie theaters were shuttered for months, recent reopenings have sent fans flocking to the big screens to find some normalcy. Hocus Pocus, the Halloween cult classic, was re-released in theaters in early October and managed to top the charts. The movie, which had a mediocre reception in 1993 when it originally premiered, actually beat two classic movies at the box office this year. 

Hocus Pocus premiered in July 1993 as a flop

Hocus Pocus might be a beloved film now, but it was mostly despised in 1993. It was considered a box office failure, and most people didn’t think they’d hear from the film again. That’s not what happened. So, why was the movie a box office flop initially? 

A lot went wrong with the release of Hocus Pocus in 1993. Not only did critics hate the flick, but it was up against a film that would receive significant acclaim. Hocus Pocus released the same week as Free Willy. The timing of its release didn’t help either. The productions studio decided to capitalize on the summer vacation, but Hocus Pocus is a Halloween film. Few people wanted to see a Halloween movie in July. The movie finished its first week at the box office in fourth place. It went on to gross just $44 million worldwide. Free Willy, in comparison, ended its box office run earning $153 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo

Hocus Pocus has become a cult classic in the intervening 27 years 

More or less, Hocus Pocus was a failure in 1993 and was criticized for its unfocused story and oddly disjointed cast. Forbes argues that the critics weren’t wrong about the film in 1993, and 27 years later, it’s not exactly any better. Still, the movie somehow became a cult classic. That didn’t happen right away, though. 

Hocus Pocus became a force slowly over about 20 years. Repeated television airings helped that along, and, over the years, it has gained more and more fans. Not only has the film retained fans who were kids when the film was originally released, but it’s found new viewers in the children of the kids the movie targeted back in 1993. Hocus Pocus 2, which is apparently in the works, will likely fare better than the original in box office numbers. Still, it remains to be seen if it will include the same campy nostalgia that has kept the flick relevant every Halloween. 

Hocus Pocus re-released in 2020 and beat Jurassic Park and The Empire Strikes Back at the box office 

2020 brought about several re-releases. The biggest names to find their way back into theaters include Hocus PocusJurassic Park, and The Empire Strikes Back. While The Empire Strikes Back was incredibly successful, Hocus Pocus dethroned the classic flick as far as re-releases go. 

Bette Midler dressed as Winifred Sanderson
Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson | Rebecca Smeyne/Getty Images

In its first 10 days at the box office, the re-release of Hocus Pocus brought in just over $3 million, according to CBR. The 40th-anniversary re-release of The Empire Strikes Back took in $2.4 million, while the re-release of Jurassic Park brought in $1.4 million. Both flicks were much more successful than Hocus Pocus during their original releases. Jurassic Park grossed more than $900 million worldwide when it was released in 1993; the same year Hocus Pocus hit theaters.