The Interview managed to bring in over $1 million at the box office during its opening on Thursday, a figure that's being seen as respectable given the unusual situation surrounding its premiere, according to The Wrap. "Considering the incredibly challenging circumstances, we are extremely grateful to the people all over the country who came out to experience The Interview on the first day of its unconventional release," Rory Bruer, Sony's global distribution president, says in a statement. Sony says that The Interview opened in fewer than 10 percent of the theaters it was originally going to play in — just 331, according to Variety. Many theaters are said to have sold out.
Sony has a lot of money left to make up
There's no word on how The Interview performed online, which would have be the most interesting statistic here. Since Wednesday, the film has been available to rent for $5.99 and to buy for $14.99. Given the publicity surrounding The Interview, Sony may actually see some nice returns from online distribution. It's unusual for a major studio film to simultaneously open on-demand and in theaters, which likely caught the attention of potential viewers. The fact that Google called out its distribution of The Interview on its home page certainly should have helped as well. That should all help boost The Interview's early numbers, though it may cut into long-term profits since people are able to watch and buy it at home immediately.
Online rentals and sales can only make up for so much lost revenue at the box office, though. In its small number of theaters, The Interview was never going to do particularly well. The Wrap speculates that The Interview should make between $3 million and $4 million by the end of the weekend, and while that's a fine box office figure given its limited release, it's far from what the film would have earned — reportedly estimated to be around $20 million during its opening. That's an issue for Sony, which needs to earn a lot more to make up for The Interview's $44 million budget. Sony may not be able to widely expand the film's release either, as major theater chains aren't going to be happy with The Interview's online release. At this point, Sony may be happy to see anything from this movie, and releasing it now, while there's still controversy and buzz, may have been its best bet.
Sony may also have one other Interview problem to deal with: the film is alleged to have used a portion of a song without getting a license for it. But that's probably among the least of Sony's worries right now.
There are a lot of people hoping that The Interview's online distribution will work out well for it and begin to convince other studios that this is a viable model. Chances are, given the huge figures The Interview has to take in to make up for its own budget and then actually turn a profit, it won't be that revolutionary release. It seems like the most Sony can hope for is that this is at least an effective release. As of Friday morning, The Interview had fallen to second place on Google's listing on top Play Store films, with Guardians of the Galaxy taking first. Guardians has already made over $332 million in the US.