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Sony Weighing Premium VOD Release for ‘The Interview’ (EXCLUSIVE)

With most major U.S. theater chains opting to drop or delay “The Interview,” Sony Pictures Entertainment is weighing releasing the film on premium video-on-demand, according to an insider.

That would allow the studio to recoup some of the film’s $42 million budget and tens of millions in promotion and advertising expenditures. It would also enable the studio to experiment with the potential of VOD, something it has been hesitant to do at the risk of angering major exhibitors. Traditionally, films must wait 90 days before they are released on home entertainment platforms.

In the case of “The Interview,” the decision may have been made by the exhibitors themselves. The majority of the country’s ten largest circuits — a group that include AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — will not show the film when it debuts on Dec. 25th.

Sony still plans to make the film available to theaters on Christmas day should they choose to exhibit it, the insider said. Talks of a possible premium VOD release are preliminary. No plan is in place yet nor has a decision about possible pricing been made. It is one of several options being debated.

Sony has been reeling for weeks since hackers broke into the studio’s computer system and stole internal documents, email messages, film budgets, spreadsheets detailing top executive salaries and the social security numbers of thousands of employees. The documents and records were subsequently leaked online, setting off a firestorm of media coverage.

Tuesday’s message accompanied another data dump. It threatened violence on theaters that showed “The Interview” and people who attend screenings.

“The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

“The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. There has been speculation that the country may be involved in the hacking as retaliation for the film, though it has denied involvement.

Theater owners are primarily concerned with being held legally responsible if any violent attack were to take place or if the message inspired a copycat assault. There are also worries that a possible attack might depress the overall box office during the Christmas holidays – historically one of the busiest times of the year for moviegoing.

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