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'The Interview' Home Entertainment Future Remains Uncertain

18 Dec, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Embattled Sony Pictures cancels Christmas Day domestic theatrical launch — not any future retail distribution

The home entertainment future of Sony Pictures’ The Interview remains a mystery — but not dead — despite unprecedented media and political attention given the infamous buddy comedy from Seth Rogen and co-starring James Franco.

The studio, which has been victim of an unrivalled cyber attack, Dec. 17 scuttled a planned Christmas Day domestic theatrical release of the ‘R'-rated comedy in which Rogen and Franco play wannabe tabloid-TV producers who score an interview-turned-assassination attempt on North Korea leader Kim Jong-un.

The move came when four of the largest theatrical chains in the country refused to screen the movie after cyber terrorists linked to the Sony hack threatened harm to moviegoers. The Department of Homeland Security denied the likelihood of any attack occurring, according to The New York Times.

In a statement, Sony Pictures said the theft of intellectual property, private emails, sensitive and proprietary material, in an effort to “destroy our spirit and our morale” over the release of a movie wouldn’t undermine the studio.

“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome,” the studio said.

While some media outlets say Sony will take an estimated $90 million financial hit on The Interview, a studio spokesperson appeared to suggest that no final decision on the movie’s future beyond theatrical has been made.

“As the situation continues to evolve, we are unable to comment on post-theatrical distribution plans for The Interview,” Steven Argula, publicity and corporate communications at SPE, said in a statement.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes Sony will revisit retail distribution of the movie in 2015, especially since packaged media is relatively immune to cyber terrorism.

“I don’t know that they are not releasing the movie on DVD. They can decide what to do on VOD and DVD later, and my guess is that they will figure out a way to monetize it,” Pachter said.

But Eric Wold, analyst with B. Riley & Co., contends even distributing The Interview DVD at physical channels such as Walmart, Target, Amazon or Redbox could subject those companies’ IT systems to possible retaliatory attacks.

Target is still dealing with fallout (including litigation) from a year-old cyber attack that exposed customer credit data, among other issues.

“Releasing the video through traditional physical channels may have proven too difficult,” Wold said. “If the hackers can break into Sony’s system, they would likely be able to shut down Redbox and render the kiosks completely useless. At this point, I think it makes the most sense for Sony to just walk away from the movie.”

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