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‘The Interview': No Box-Office Breakout but That’s OK with Sony

The Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy will finish with around $2.8 million for 4-day weekend

It’s clear after two days in release that “The Interview” won’t be setting any box office records in its opening this weekend, and that’s just fine with Sony Pictures.

“We feel like we accomplished what we set out to do,” distribution chief Rory Bruer told TheWrap Saturday. “It was a lot of work and a measure of the resolve of this company. We got it out there in front of people for Christmas Day, and we feel very good about that.”

The flag-waving frenzy that greeted the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy in its Christmas Day opening subsided Friday, and the R-rated spoof about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took in an estimated $738,000 from 331 independent and art house theaters.

That’s down from its $1 million first day, and projects to a four-day haul of $2.8 million for “The Interview.” Given the realities facing the opening of the film, that’s respectable. But it’s considerably less than the roughly $20 million that analysts had projected early, when the $44 million movie was originally scheduled to open in about 3,000 theaters.

Sony made the film at the center of the hacking scandal available for downloads on YouTube, Google Play, Xbox and the studio’s own site this weekend well, which irked the major theaters chains and caused them to boycott its release.

The major chains were the first to pull out of the original wide release of “The Interview” in the wake of terror threats from hackers on Dec. 17, and Sony pulled the film hours later. The studio changed course a week later under pressure from President Obama, politicians and Hollywood’s creative community, and again offered the film to theaters.

But AMC, Regal and Carmike opted out a second time when Sony said it would also offer “The Interview” on video-on-demand and for streaming on the same day. The exhibition chains have fought for years against same-day digital, convinced it will cut their business significantly.

That left “The Interview” with a network of mainly smaller indie art houses, many of which had limited seating capacity, and made it the first major studio release to be offered digitally at the same time it hit theaters.

“I don’t think box office grosses were what this was all about for Sony,” Exhibitor Relations senior analysts Jeff Bock told The Wrap. “It was just a matter of getting the film out there, as the digital play shows.”

Sony has yet to release any numbers from the digital rollout, and Bruer didn’t think that the weekend offered much of a gauge of the impact of concurrent day-and-date digital and theatrical releases.

“This was such a unique situation,” Bruer said. “We really had to scramble to get it out there and I had my doubts at times, but we did it and we ‘re very happy with that.”