'The Interview' makes $1 million before online revenue rolls in

Fri Dec 26, 2014 7:01pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey and Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Interview" took in more than $1 million in a limited Christmas Day release, a solid showing that could be quickly eclipsed by the money Sony Pictures makes with its groundbreaking online debut of the raunchy comedy.

That the farcical film - which angered North Korea and triggered a devastating cyberattack on the studio - is now a guinea pig for Hollywood's digital future constitutes another bizarre twist in the month-long Sony Pictures saga.

After large movie theater chains refused to screen the comedy following threats of violence from hackers who opposed the film, Sony stitched together a limited release in 331 mostly independent theaters and a $5.99 video-on-demand (VOD) rental option on YouTube, Google Play and other sites.

"I'd be surprised if this wasn't one of the biggest VOD events ever," said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, who thinks Sony could have charged more.

Until Sony discloses the online revenues, it is hard to know if the studio will come anywhere near recouping the $44 million it cost to make the film, plus the $30 million-$40 million that some estimate was spent on marketing the film and its stars, Seth Rogen and James Franco.

The comedy, steeped in gross-out, bathroom humor, depicts the travails of two journalists who get enlisted to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. It might not be a typical Christmas Day release, but it filled theaters and got lots of laughs.

Sony "got $1 million in sales, that's a nice bit of gravy... knowing the main release isn't happening the way it should be," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of boxofficeguru.com.

The theatrical release so far amounts to less than 10 percent of the cinemas that had been planned for a wide release in the United States and Canada. The film was expected to gross at least $20 million over the long holiday weekend if in wide release, according to Boxoffice.com.   Continued...

A man walks by the poster for the film "The Interview" outside the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Littleton, Colorado December 23, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking