Halloween Favorite Trick ‘R Treat Is Heading To Theaters For The First Time. Here’s Why It’s Such A Big Deal

Sam sits next to a flaming pumpkin in Trick 'r Treat.
(Image credit: Warner Bros/Legendary)

Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when Halloween comes around? Ideally the weather starts to chill, the perky fall flavors of various treats hit shelves and marathons of horror and thriller favorites start to take form. In some cases, old favorites come back to theaters, mixing it up with new movie releases that are trying to stake similar claims at the box office. This fall is no exception, as writer/director Michael Doughterty’s Halloween favorite Trick ‘r Treat is actually heading to the big screen. 

Believe it or not, that’s a pretty huge deal, as it’s the first time that the movie will actually be available to a wide theatrical audience. To some, the story I’m about to tell about how Trick ‘r Treat became a surprise cult classic may be a bit of a shock, especially after 15 years of existence have treated the film rather well. It doesn’t change the fact that this road has been a bit rocky, but for now let’s start by celebrating the good news Warner Bros. has handed down to the masses. 

A kid in a Dracula mask sits on the school bus in Trick 'r Treat.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Legendary)

Trick ‘R Treat, And Another Warner Bros. Classic, Are Heading To Theaters For Halloween

Bringing back repertory favorites to the movies isn’t a new notion, with individual theater chains, studios and companies like Fathom Events making this sort of thing a more regular occurrence. However, even WB Classic Films, Warner Bros.’ repertory distribution arm, couldn’t help but celebrate Trick ‘r Treat’s good fortune to be on the docket for its first wide theatrical push. 

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Along with Trick ‘r Treat’s theatrical debut comes the news that, at least in the case of Regal Cinemas, The Lost Boys is also on the seasonal menu. Celebrating 35 years of absolute terror, killer jokes and a madness that even Alex Winter couldn’t believe he was encountering on his first day of work, that film has a legacy rich with theatrical history. The same can’t be said for the horror anthology that brought us here today, as Trick ‘r Treat never saw the blockbuster release that was planned from the beginning.

Tahmoh Penikett screams in the middle of his Halloween decorations in Trick 'r Treat.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Legendary)

There Has Never Been A Wide Theatrical Release For Trick ‘R Treat

If Trick ‘r Treat were made in the current climate, there's a strong chance that it would have been earmarked as a streaming exclusive. However, back in the mid-2000s, streaming wasn’t even off the ground yet. If you wanted to bury a movie or make quick cash that capitalized on a movie you felt confident about, three words said it all: “Direct to Video.”

This is exactly what happened to Trick ‘r Treat, but not before it started life hyped up as a theatrical release for 2007. Michael Doughterty’s film was completed and promoted as a horror anthology with X-Men producer Bryan Singer attached, along with boasting stars like Succession’s Brian Cox and True Blood’s Anna Paquin. 

It even had various festival screenings and released a trailer that ran in front of 300 in theaters! That was, until the film was randomly yanked from the release schedule for 2007. All at once, Trick ‘r Treat looked like it was going to become the Batgirl of its time. It wouldn’t resurface until 2009, when even CinemaBlend heralded its arrival on DVD as a Halloween treat. 

Dylan Baker wields a knife behind an unsuspecting Connor Levins in Trick 'r Treat.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Legendary)

The Wild History That Saw Trick ‘R Treat Go Straight To Video

Trick ‘r Treat finally made its debut to the public at large on October 6, 2009 through home video. However, those two years where the movie remained in limbo were never officially explained by Warner Bros. That didn’t stop people from sharing their theories, with speculation coming from someone pretty close to the production: producer Bryan Singer. In a 2013 interview with IGN, Singer mentioned the following as a potential reason for the film’s fate: 

I think the timing was a little weird. I think everyone was showing it to an audience that was expecting Saw and they got a little confused in the market research or whatever. I'm just happy to see that it's made its money back and more. It's pretty cool, actually!

It’s plausible that the studio was worried how the untested Trick ‘r Treat and its throwback to ‘80s horror would fare in a market where torture porn reigned supreme. Saw IV was the installment of choice in 2007, and it predictably opened at number 1 in its late October slot. Then again, there’s another oft-repeated rumor that also makes a lot of sense. 

During those years where the internet was trying to parse out why WB would shelve a movie like Trick ‘r Treat, those who had seen the movie in those festival screenings had their own theory. Apparently the movie’s lack of shyness when it came to killing some of its child characters was hinted to have scared the studio into burying it altogether. With the potentially controversial subject matter, and tastes in horror being what they were, this poison brew seems likely, though not confirmed by the studio in the slightest. 

That being said, Warner Bros. was about to find out that sometimes the things you think you’ve buried come back in the most unexpected ways. Much like Brian Cox’s Mr. Kreeg discovered in Trick ‘r Treat, the central creature of Sam, and the rest of his friends, were about to make an impact; one that this DVD debut may have inadvertently bolstered. 

Anna Paquin looks snarky as she costume shops with her friends in Trick 'r Treat.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Legendary)

How Trick ‘R Treat Became A Massive Cult Hit

In an age where direct-to-video projects were either a death sentence, a cash grab or a mockbuster, Trick ‘r Treat struck it big. Fans loved Michael Dougherty’s love letter to Halloween, and its master of ceremonies known as Sam became a fast rising star in the world of horror icons. Tons of merchandise, graphic novel tie-ins and good old-fashioned internet fandom kept the movie alive and well over the years, making it a potential Halloween staple

What’s the secret formula behind Trick ‘r Treat’s second chance at fame? Well, if I were to guess, it’s probably a combination of two things. One factor is that the two-year delay may have actually stoked the fires for Dougherty’s film, as those festival screening reactions probably fed the flames for the horror crowd that wanted to see it for themselves. FOMO can be a powerful weapon when promoting a horror movie like this one.

This leads into the other factor that I believe made this movie such a hit: it’s legitimately a fantastic horror anthology. Trick ‘r Treat rides a line between mischief and pure horror that lets its audience laugh and scream in equal measure. Never forgetting to be fun and tip its hat to Halloween lore, it’s a film that unabashedly loves its genre and holiday basis, while never forgetting to have the fun that most torture porn movies of the time tended to set aside.

Sam standing outside next to a tree on Halloween in Trick 'r Treat.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Legendary)

Why Release Trick ‘R Treat Into Wide Release, 15 Years Later?

After such a complicated history between Warner Bros. and Trick ‘r Treat, some might be wondering why now is the right time to finally give this project its cinematic due. Celebrating 15 years of Sam’s shenanigans, and the stories that result, is one good reason to let the fans finally enjoy this one in a theater nearby. However, there are some business related reasons that make these repertory screenings a little more of an opportunity. 

Warner Bros. has very little on the schedule for the rest of the year, so testing the popularity of Trick ‘r Treat in theaters couldn’t have come at a better time. Nostalgic bring backs are already taking place, so it makes sense on the balance sheets as well.

Not to mention that the studio could be testing the waters to get the long-promised Trick ‘r Treat 2 on the fast track into production. Seeing as Warner Bros.’ partnership with production company Legendary is potentially ending, and they both have stakes in this particular pumpkin pie, this could be one of the last chances to make it happen. 

No matter the reasons or the results, seeing Trick ‘r Treat finally head to theaters is something to celebrate. It may have taken over a decade to finally happen, but some curses just need to weave the right spell at the right time. If you’re looking forward to this happy occasion, you’re going to want to check your local listings, as some theaters already have their screenings scheduled and are eagerly waiting for you to book your tickets.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.