Lionsgate just announced that Spiral: From the Book of Saw will be debuting on Starz for its first pay-TV window and that window will begin in October, followed by the entire Saw franchise (which is currently streaming on HBO Max). Yes, that’s a little early even by current standards, just five months after its May 14 theatrical opening day. However, it does get the film onto Lionsgate’s prized cable network in time to pull the “If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw” card despite the movie opening theatrically in mid-May.
Whether or not that will drive a surge of folks who aren’t seeing the Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson-starring Saw sequel in theaters to catch up with the installment “at the proper moment” remains to be seen. But had Spiral broken out and then experienced a Halloween season post-theatrical surge, well, that would have justified releasing the flick outside of its established late-October home. Yes, it’ll likely be on PVOD very soon (as was Voyagers and Chaos Walking), but there is value in making sure Spiral can be touted as a big pay cable title by this October.
I’m old enough to remember when Warner Bros. caused a ruckus by putting out Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 on “priced to buy” (around $20) VHS release in just five months after theatrical, with the first pay TV window (on HBO) occurring around a year after theatrical release. In the proverbial olden days, that’s how it worked. Movies opened theatrically, they arrived on “home video” four-to-six months later, they premiered on first-tier pay cable (HBO, Showtime, etc.) about a year after theatrical. They would then make their basic cable or network television debut around three years after theatrical, just in time to promote the sequel.
Heck, today is the three-year anniversary of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Had things gone differently, we might be discussing the Memorial Day opening of Solo 2: Another Star Wars Story or what-have-you. Of course, the pandemic has shattered and rearranged existing windows for theatrical and post-theatrical. Offhand, Chris Nolan’s Tenet may be the last big movie to get a somewhat conventional window (theatrical last September, DVD by last Christmas and then HBO Max on May 1).
Come what may, Darren Lynn Bousman’s Spiral: From the Book of Saw (produced by Mark Burg & Oren Koules and again executive produced by longtime collaborator Daniel J. Heffner) will arrive on Starz (owned by Lionsgate) sometime in October just in time to again play the “If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw!” card while theatrical audiences are flocking to Halloween Kills. While Spiral hasn’t really broken out, $22.56 million worldwide thus far (on a $20 million budget) was still enough to get the nine-movie Saw franchise past the $1 billion mark (on a combined $95 million budget). I’m torn on whether the franchise should continue, but this PR play shows that Lionsgate hasn’t quite announced “Game over…” on the series.