'The Interview' Loses Sony $30 Million, But The Movie Is Far From A Total Bust

Workers remove a poster-banner for 'The Interview' from a billboard in Hollywood, California, December 18, 2014 a day after Sony announced was cancelling the movie's Christmas release due to a terrorist threat. Sony defended itself Thursday against a flood of criticism for canceling the movie which angered North Korea and triggered a massive cyber-attack, as the crisis took a wider diplomatic turn. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL THURSTON (Photo credit should read Michael THURSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: MICHAEL THURSTON/AFP/Getty Images

The numbers are in: Sony will lose at least $30 million on The Interview. "In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards," said Patrick Corcoran, vice president of the National Association of Theater Owners. "The only game changed here was just how much Sony left on the table," Corcoran wrote  last Friday for Boxoffice Magazine. 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Corcoran's comments broke a"self-imposed silence" on The Interview, the controversial comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as two inept journalists on a CIA mission to assassinate Kim Jong Un. After a direct threat against theaters scheduled to show the film by the group responsible for the Sony hack, the company pulled the movie. However, following criticism from President Obama for canceling the film's release altogether, Sony decided to release The Interview in theaters and on VOD on Christmas Day, but only in the few hundred independent cinemas willing to play it.

Corcoran explained, "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[...]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[...]that Sony pockets 60 percent of that sum instead of the customary 70 percent." According to the Hollywood Reporter's Pamela McClintock points out, this is far from enough to make up for the film's $44 million production budget of $44 million and "marketing expenditures of at least $30 million." Though Sony is, as Corcoran puts it, "$30 million in the hole," Gregory Wakeman of Cinema Blend counters that "Sony is probably happy to have made any amount at all from The Interview."

The movie might not have been the box office smash the company anticipated, but given its "cobbled-together simultaneous release," 60% might be better than nothing. Corcoran doesn't necessarily see The Interview as a "game changer," but it certainly isn't a flop; Corcoran says he agrees with Netflix's Ted Sarandos, who called the events surrounding The Interview's distribution "eye opening."

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