Christmas is a time to forgive and make peace, and that’s exactly what North Korea and Sony did. Sort of. At any rate, Hollywood’s hot-button story of the year has a happy ending as “The Interview” will be released theatrically in 300+ theaters in North America on Christmas Day and is available now on various streaming services for the low, low rental price of $5.99 or $14.99 to own.
While it could make $3M-$4M in its initial box office take, the most interesting number will be the VOD haul, which could have the distinction of becoming the biggest money-maker of all-time in that arena.
So let’s discuss the price point first. $5.99? Remember when Universal’s “Tower Heist” was attempting to do a VOD release prior to theatrical they set the price point at a whopping $60 USD. $5.99 is honestly cheaper than a ticket to the movies these days, in fact that’s a matinee special price in most major metropolitan markets.
So, are theater owners mad and refusing to play it? The major chains already balked at screening it, as Sony tossed the ball into their court after the threats from the hackers, and they refused to play it. Then, Obama turned this into a jingoistic affair by basically saying there is no credible threat and Americans should go to the movies.
Sony then did a complete 180 from saying there were absolutely no plans to release it and less than 48 hours later started getting smaller chains to book it and then teamed with Google and Microsoft to make the VOD happen. So, will this be a trend? No. At least not yet.
It will be an important case-study for the industry though. There is just too much at stake right now for the studios and the theater chains to make this idea of VOD more than a one-off situation right now. And quite honestly, this is the perfect vehicle to do it.
In other news, there are also five wide releases this weekend, including Disney’s musical “Into the Woods,” Mark Wahlberg in “The Gambler,” Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” and Weinstein’s “The Imitation Game” expanding into major multiplexes.
All in all, one of the best times to go to theaters if you’re a film fanatic as all the final awards contenders–“Selma,” “American Sniper,” “A Most Violent Year,” and “Leviathan” also open in exclusive release.
So who wins the box office battle? Doubtful any of these movies can topple “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” which has already passed $100+M and looks to hit $30+M this weekend, but with mid-week grosses destined to be strong, and all of these movies reaching for legit demographics, it should be a strong season for Hollywood.
Disney’s “Into the Woods” is directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) and should make a decent grab for runner-up, although it’s only in 2,440 theaters. Still, a musical based on fairy tales is right up the Mouse House’s aisle, and should see families gravitate towards it. Possibly upwards of $20M this weekend.
The one drawback: it is a little dark, so I’m not sure how it received the PG rating. Disney pulling strings is nothing new, but the cast alone–Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp and a hilarious turn by Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince–is all the reason you need to go.
Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” didn’t get nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture, but Universal is still going full-steam ahead with their awards campaign. Landing in 3,131 theaters the real-life drama of Olympian Louis Zamperini should see decent grosses but while the visuals are impressive, the reviews haven’t been spectacular, and that could hurt a film like this. Upwards of $17M this weekend.
Tough guy Mark Wahlberg enters 2,478 theaters as the only R-rated wide release and that could help the cause of “The Gambler,” although without any real buzz Paramount may have to be happy with $10M or so.
My personal choice is Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” the real-life biography of painter Margaret Keane and her charlatan of a husband who are credited with all the Big Eyes paintings in the 1950s/1960s.
So nice to see Burton work on a small canvas again, relying on a great script and terrific acting by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. On just over 1,300 screens expect around $5M for starters and hopefully some awards buzz.
In limited release, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” starring Bradley Cooper drops in 4 theaters, while Oprah Winfrey’s awards-contender “Selma” enters the frame in 19 locations.
Happy viewing to all, and to all a good night.
1. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – $32M
2. Into the Woods – $19M
3. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb – $18M
4. Unbroken – $17M
5. Annie – $16M
6. The Gambler – $11M
Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.