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‘The Interview’ Will Lose $30 Million, ‘Not a Game-Changer,’ Says NATO

The National Association of Theater Owners has issued its first public statement about “The Interview,” asserting that Sony will lose at least $30 million on the comedy.

Despite widespread predictions of a new business model, NATO VP Patrick Corcoran also said the movie’s day-and-date release in theaters and on VOD is not a game-changer.

In a column titled “The Imitation Game: The Interview’s Simultaneous Release Doesn’t Change Anything” for Box Office magazine, Corcoran dismissed “starry-eyed” comments of a paradigm shift. Box Office is an official NATO publication.

“In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards,” he said. “The only game changed here was just how much Sony left on the table.”

A rep for Sony declined comment.

Sony announced on Jan. 14 that it had set a Feb. 17 release date for the DVD and Blu-ray versions of “The Interview,” the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy that provoked the massive hacking attack at the studio. The Blu-ray version, which is being marketed as the “Freedom Edition,” will have a suggested list price of $19.99, while the DVD will carry a suggested list price of $14.99.

Franco portrays a celebrity talkshow host and Rogen is his producer in “The Interview,” in which the duo snag an exclusive in-person interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and are recruited by a CIA agent (Lizzy Caplan) to assassinate the dictator.

The studio was hit by hackers on Nov. 24, and theater owners were threatened with terrorism on Dec. 16 if they showed the film. On Dec. 17, Sony pulled the film’s theatrical release in the face of a refusal by major chains to show the film, then reversed course six days later, launching the film on VOD on Christmas Eve and opening on Christmas Day at 330 independent theaters.

Sony announced Jan. 6 that the film had grossed $31 million from online and video-on-demand revenues through its first week and a half in release. The comedy has also generated nearly $6 million in limited theatrical release.

Major theater chains such as AMC, Regal and Cinemark have indicated privately that they were angered and frustrated with Sony not giving them more time to respond to the terrorist threat.

“We haven’t heard any new digital dollar figures from Sony since Jan. 4, so it’s a little hard to estimate where it will end up, but I’m feeling generous. Say $50 million,” Corcoran said. “Given the chaotic nature of the ad-hoc release plan and Sony’s desperation to play the movie on any home-release platform that would take it, I’m going to assume, less generously, that Sony pockets 60% of that sum instead of the customary 70%.”

Corcoran calculated that Sony will get back $30 million in VOD revenue for a total $33.5 million — compared with a $44 million production cost plus at least $30 million in prints and advertising. He then added $10 million as a “generous” estimate for international box office revenues.

“We’re at $43.5 million, and it has already had a home release,” he said. “Frankly, the waters here are uncharted. Premium cable usually bases what they’ll pay on theatrical performance — how do you measure that? Sony has announced a DVD/Blu-ray release for February 17 — what kind of disc sales and rentals will you get when it has already been in the home? In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards.”‘

Sony declined to comment.

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