The Interview Box Office Could Hit

Sony’s “The Interview” has delivered over $1 million on its opening day on Christmas — an impressive launch for a title playing in only about 300 independent theaters in the U.S.

The estimate for the controversial comedy came after a launch amid a barrage of news coverage, with several theaters opting for midnight screenings. The Alamo Drafthouse chain had reported on Christmas Eve that it had sold out all of its opening-day screenings at 17 locations.

The numbers for “The Interview” may drop off in coming days given that Sony launched a VOD release on Wednesday morning via YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own site. Major chains such as AMC, Regal and Carmike are refusing to book “The Interview” due to the VOD release.

The awareness of “The Interview” may have benefited rival titles, which saw Christmas grosses come in well above estimates, with three titles — Universal’s “Unbroken,” Disney’s “Into the Woods” and New Line-MGM’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” heading for at least $40 million each for the four-day Christmas weekend.

Angelina Jolie’s war drama “Unbroken” performed far above forecasts with Christmas Day grosses of about $15 million at 3,131 locations. The tale of war hero Louis Zamperini could wind up hitting above $45 million for the holiday weekend.

“Into the Woods” delivered Christmas box office in the $12 million to $13 million range at 2,424, with the top numbers coming from large cities, portending a weekend in the $39 million to $44 million range.

Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” finale doubled its $6 million Christmas Eve total to about $12 million at 3,875, leading to a probable $40 million weekend — a hold that’s in line with the previous two films — and a U.S. total around $155 million by the end of Sunday.

Paramount’s remake of “The Gambler” opened respectably with about $4.5 million at 2,478 on Christmas, portending a weekend of around $15 million. The Weinstein Co.’s “Big Eyes” opened moderately with $1.5 million at 1,307.

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