Sony rivals to benefit from 'Interview' cancellation

Sony's decision to pull 'The Interview' will be a windfall for rival movie studios

Sony Pictures Entertainment's decision to yank "The Interview" from movie theaters will benefit rival studios trying to attract audiences during the crucial holiday movie season.

Theater owners are set to replace "The Interview" on thousands of screens around the country with rival movies. Among the biggest beneficiaries is expected to be "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" and "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb."

The holiday slate was upended when hackers threatened Sony and movie theaters if they screened Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's film, which depicted the fictional assassination of Kim Jong Un. Federal authorities believe the attack was directed by North Korea.

The sprint to the end of the year is a key time as studios try to make their numbers and best one another at the box office. So far this year, ticket sales are down about 5%, and Hollywood was hoping ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada could catch up to last year's record of $10.9 billion.

That could mean the $75 million to $100 million that "The Interview" was expected to make will be diverted to other films, or not register at the box office at all. Last December, the box office pulled in about $1 billion.

Eric Wold, an analyst with B. Riley, is confident that exhibitors will survive the December quarter without much of a dent in ticket sales. He said the loss of the film probably would result in 2% less in quarterly revenue for exhibitors.

"Now that everything is digital, exhibitors can just as easily add more auditoriums for a movie or switch things around," he said. "I think they can use the opportunity to move people into other theaters for other films. I don't think there's a huge loss."

Other notable films opening in the next few weeks include "Into the Woods," "Unbroken" and "The Gambler." But Warner's latest "Hobbit" movie and the newest installment of "Night at the Museum" from Fox are seen as the biggest releases during the period.

Still, without the Rogen-Goldberg film, the box office is left with a lack of R-rated comedies for December. Though the genre caters to a more niche audience (younger males), it's still a big draw for moviegoers during the holidays when people have time off.

In October, when Sony decided to move "The Interview" to Christmas Day, Paramount Pictures announced it would push back its R-rated film "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" to avoid a showdown with a comedy targeting similar demographics.

With all the controversy, the studio's decision to scrap the film has given it more notoriety — be it good or bad. On Rotten Tomatoes, 96% of audiences said they wanted to see "The Interview" — despite the 48% "fresh" rating from reviewers.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
82°