Sony Hack: 'Interview's' VOD Strategy Probably Won't Change Anything

Sony Interview Won't Change - H 2014
Illustration by: Gluekit

Sony Interview Won't Change - H 2014

Despite the big experiment, VOD releases will remain a niche play, say analysts, as the Sony movie heads for a major loss

This story first appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Some have claimed The Interview's unorthodox rollout marks a paradigm shift toward day-and-date theatrical and VOD releases. But most insiders believe that as long as major theater chains refuse to play movies simultaneously available elsewhere, it doesn't make sense for big studios to pursue the strategy. "It did well in its opening weekend, but once it expanded to iTunes and cable VOD, the theatrical box office dropped significantly," says B. Riley & Co. analyst Eric Wold.

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Opening Dec. 25 in 331 independent theaters, Interview took in $2.9 million in its first four days. It made the most ($1.1 million) on opening day. Digital earnings from Google Play, YouTube, Xbox Video and Sony's website easily outpaced box office with $15 million during the last weekend of December on their way to $31 million as of Jan. 4 — far more than the announced VOD gross of such hits as Arbitrage ($14 million) and Snowpiercer ($11 million). (Sony will not reveal its revenue split, but sources say it receives about half of grosses.)

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For its second weekend, after Interview added iTunes, cable and satellite, Sony upped its theater count to 581. But box office tumbled 40 percent to $1.1 million and likely will top out at $7 million domestic (an international release is unclear). Sony spent $44 million to make the film and likely $40 million to market it, so Interview needs to gross more than $100 million to turn a profit — which probably won't happen. "It seems like a one-off to me," says analyst Mike Hickey of The Benchmark Co. "I don't think it's economically feasible for studios to pursue that dual strategy."