The terrorists have opened up some new opportunities in Hollywood. After a group of unidentified hackers threatened 9/11-style mayhem at screenings of “The Interview,” Sony Pictures Entertainment canceled all screenings of the upcoming Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, meaning millions of dollars in holiday ticket sales are now up for grabs.
“The Interview,” which centered on a plot to kill North Korea’s Kim Jon Un, was scheduled for wide release on Christmas Day, traditionally one of the biggest movie-going days of the year. If moviegoers turn out in their usual numbers (last year theaters raked in upwards of $10.84 billion over the holiday weekend), other big studio releases will undoubtedly benefit from the film’s absence.
Exactly which films depends on the whims of the young, male demographic Sony was hoping to attract. “The Interview” was the only major comedy slated to be released on Christmas Day, a day Hollywood typically reserves for family fare and late Oscar contenders. Moviegoers who had planned to see the Rogen/Franco laugher will have to pick another genre.
In the family category, there’s Walt Disney Company’s “Into the Woods,” a musical reimagining of Grimm’s fairytales -- not exactly a substitute for seeing the leader of North Korea’s head explode. The same goes for the Columbia Pictures remake of “Annie” and 20th Century Fox’s “Night at the Museum 3,” both released earlier this month but not likely to interest “Interview” targets.
Ditto for Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” a biopic of the artist Margaret Keane, which has limited commercial appeal, even with the star power of Amy Adams behind it.
Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” which was released by Warner Bros. Dec. 17, is more likely to attract “The Interview” demographic, but not everyone wants to see elves running around Middle Earth for three-plus hours.
In the Oscar-contender category, there’s the Russian epic “Leviathan,” a retelling of the Book of Job, opening wide on Christmas. It joins Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” a true story of a World War II-era Olympic distance runner, and Ava DuVernay’s civil rights drama “Selma.” None of those are likely to interest would-be “Interview” viewers in large numbers.
That leaves an unlikely benefactor in “The Interview” fallout: Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” which is based on the real-life story of the Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Stylistically speaking, the movie could not be more different from the goofily premised “Interview,” but Warner Bros. is banking on a young male turnout for the Bradley Cooper starrer. Cooper and Co. could be the big winner here, if only by default.
In response to Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview,” one Texas theater said it will show a free screening of “Team America,” the 2004 puppet comedy from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, which lampoons then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
So at least there’s that.