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Monday Update:

Warner's American Sniper broke out in a big way this weekend with a massive estimated $105.31 million in its first four days of wide release. The Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper had clearly been building up major momentum leading up to its wide release and ultimately exploded out of the gate this weekend to a degree that nobody was expecting. With an estimated three-day gross of $89.51 million, American Sniper easily established new opening weekend records for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and for the month of January as it outpaced the $41.52 million take of previous record holder, last year's Ride Along, by an astounding 116 percent. With the addition of a very strong performance in three weeks of platform release (which clearly helped build up buzz for the film), American Sniper has grossed $108.73 million through Monday.

In a break-out performance of this size, American Sniper clearly appealed to various audience demographics and to moviegoers throughout the country. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards male moviegoers (57 percent) and towards moviegoers over 25 years of age (63 percent).

With no potential blockbuster performers arriving in the marketplace over the next two weeks, American Sniper is in perfect position to continue to dominate the box office throughout the rest of January. The film received an exceptional A+ rating on CinemaScore.

American Sniper received an added boost from its fairly last-minute IMAX release. IMAX grosses totaled $10.63 million over the four-day frame, which represented 10.1 percent of the film's overall gross over the holiday weekend.

It was a tight race for second place between Paddington and The Wedding Ringer this weekend. While The Wedding Ringer placed in second over the three-day frame, Paddington moved into second place over the four-day frame.

Paddington took in respective three-day and four-day estimated grosses of $18.97 million and $25.21 million. The family film from The Weinstein Company debuted on the high end of expectations. Paddington opened just 2 percent below the $25.70 million four-day start of The Nut Job over Martin Luther King weekend last year, which was quite respectable given that Paddington didn't have the added advantage of higher priced 3D admissions that The Nut Job and most other family films have. Paddington received an A rating on CinemaScore, which is a promising early sign for the film going forward.

Sony's The Wedding Ringer was off to a respectable start with respective three-day and four-day estimated grosses of $20.6 million and $24.5 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad opened on the low end of pre-release expectations. The Wedding Ringer opened 12 percent below the $27.84 million four-day start of last year's About Last Night, but will likely hold up better going forward than About Last Night did (due in part to that film being a Valentine's Day release). Potential for The Wedding Ringer was no doubt limited at least somewhat by the breakout performance of American Sniper with adult moviegoers. The Wedding Ringer received a healthy A- rating on CinemaScore.

On the heels of last weekend's stronger than expected start Fox's Taken 3 was down three spots and a sharp 56 percent to land in fourth place with an estimated $17.4 million over the four-day frame. Audience overlap with American Sniper has clearly led to increased front-loading for Taken 3. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise has grossed $66.19 million in eleven days. That places the film a reasonable 25 percent behind the $87.80 million eleven-day take of 2012's Taken 2. The revised three-day estimate for Taken 3 stands at $14.63 million.

Selma rounded out the weekend's top five with an estimated four-day take of $11.5 million. The Best Picture nominee from Paramount was up a healthy 2 percent over last weekend's three-day performance. The film was helped out this weekend by the Martin Luther King holiday and by its Best Picture nomination. Selma has grossed $29.16 million after eleven days of wide release. While Selma is performing softer than was widely anticipated, the film is still having a respectable run thus far with its modest price tag in mind. The revised three-day estimate for Selma is $8.79 million.

Estimated four-day holiday weekend grosses for other Best Picture nominees included $8.07 million for The Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game (playing in 1,611 locations), $1.84 million for Fox Searchlight's Birdman (playing in 471 locations), $1.19 million for Focus' The Theory of Everything (playing in 509 locations) and $0.44 million for Sony Pictures Classics' Whiplash (playing in 189 locations). Respective current total grosses stand at $51.67 million for The Imitation Game, at $28.57 million for Birdman, at $27.51 million for The Theory of Everything and at $6.67 million for Whiplash.

Meanwhile, Universal's Blackhat was dead on arrival this weekend with an estimated $4.42 million over the four-day frame. The Michael Mann directed film starring Chris Hemsworth debuted in eleventh place and opened well below its already modest expectations. The decision to open Blackhat against American Sniper (and one week after Taken 3) always seemed like a puzzling one and Blackhat simply couldn't find an audience this weekend. The film debuted 75.5 percent below the $18.03 million start of last year's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Long term prospects for Blackhat are bleak and the film having received a poor C- rating on CinemaScore won't help matters either. The revised three-day estimate for Blackhat is $3.8 million.

Sunday Update:

By Daniel Garris

Warner's American Sniper broke out this weekend with a massive estimated $90.21 million in its first three days of wide release. The Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper had clearly been building up major momentum leading up to its wide release and ultimately exploded out of the gate this weekend to a degree that nobody was expecting. American Sniper easily established a new opening weekend record for the month of January as it outpaced the $41.52 million take of previous record holder, last year's Ride Along, by an astounding 117 percent. American Sniper performed 138 percent stronger than the $37.85 million grossed by Lone Survivor in its first weekend of wide release last year. With the addition of a very strong performance in three weeks of platform release (which clearly helped build up buzz for the film), American Sniper has grossed $93.63 million through Sunday. Warner Bros. is estimating a four-day take of $105.2 million for American Sniper.

In a break-out performance of this size, American Sniper clearly appealed to various audience demographics and to moviegoers throughout the country. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards male moviegoers (57 percent) and towards moviegoers over 25 years of age (63 percent).

American Sniper took in $30.5 million on Friday (which included an estimated $5.3 million from Thursday night shows), increased an impressive 14 percent on Saturday to gross $34.71 million and is estimated to decline 28 percent on Sunday to take in $25.00 million. That places the film's estimated 3-day weekend to Friday ratio at 2.96 to 1. With no potential blockbuster performers arriving in the marketplace the next two weeks, American Sniper is in position to continue to dominate the box office throughout the rest of January. The film received an exceptional A+ rating on CinemaScore.

American Sniper received an added boost from its fairly last-minute IMAX release. IMAX grosses totaled $9.5 million this weekend, which represented 10.5 percent of the film's overall gross over the three-day frame.

While it finished in a very distant second place over the three-day frame, Sony's The Wedding Ringer was off to a respectable estimated start of $21.0 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad opened on the low end of pre-release expectations. The Wedding Ringer opened 18 percent below the $25.65 million three-day start of last year's About Last Night, but will likely hold up better going forward than About Last Night did (due in part to that film being a Valentine's Day release). Potential for The Wedding Ringer was no doubt limited at least somewhat by the breakout performance of American Sniper. BOXOFFICE is currently estimating a four-day take of $24.8 million for The Wedding Ringer.

The Wedding Ringer opened with $7.01 million on Friday, increased 20 percent on Saturday to gross $8.44 million and is estimated to fall 34 percent on Sunday to gross $5.56 million. That places the film's estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at 3.00 to 1. The Wedding Ringer received a healthy A- rating on CinemaScore.

Paddington finished closely behind in third with an estimated $19.29 million. The family film from The Weinstein Company debuted on the high end of expectations. Paddington opened just 1 percent below the $19.42 million start of The Nut Job over Martin Luther King weekend last year, which was quite respectable given that Paddington didn't have the added advantage of higher priced 3D admissions that The Nut Job and most other family films have. BOXOFFICE is currently estimating a four-day take of $25.8 million for Paddington, which would move the film into second place over the four-day frame.

Paddington opened with $4.66 million on Friday, increased a very strong 80 percent on Saturday to take in $8.36 million and is estimated to decline 25 percent on Sunday to gross $6.27 million. That gives the film an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 4.14 to 1, which signals just how heavily the film is skewing towards family audiences. Paddington received an A rating on CinemaScore, which is a promising early sign for the film going forward.

On the heels of last weekend's stronger than expected start, Fox's Taken 3 was down three spots and a sharp 64 percent to land in fourth place with an estimated $14.05 million over the three-day frame. Audience overlap with American Sniper has clearly led to increased front-loading for Taken 3. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise has grossed $62.84 million in ten days. That places the film 27 percent behind the $86.13 million ten-day take of 2012's Taken 2 (which fell 56 percent in its second weekend of release to gross $21.87 million). BOXOFFICE is currently estimating a four-day gross of $16.5 million for Taken 3.

Selma rounded out the weekend's top five with an estimated three-day take of $8.3 million. The Best Picture nominee from Paramount was down just 27 percent from last weekend. The film was helped out this weekend by the Martin Luther King holiday and by its Best Picture nomination. Selma has grossed $25.96 million after ten days of wide release. While Selma is performing softer than was widely anticipated, the film is still having a respectable run thus far with its modest price tag in mind. Paramount is currently estimating a four-day take of $10.3 million for Selma.

Fellow Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game finished in sixth with an estimated $7.19 million over the three-day frame. The critically acclaimed film from The Weinstein Company was unchanged from last weekend. The Imitation Game surpassed the $50 million mark this weekend and has grossed $50.79 million to date. BOXOFFICE is currently estimating a four-day gross of $8.8 million for The Imitation Game.

Meanwhile, Universal's Blackhat was dead on arrival this weekend with an estimated $4.03 million. The Michael Mann directed film starring Chris Hemsworth debuted in tenth place and opened well below its already modest expectations. The decision to open Blackhat against American Sniper (and one week after Taken 3) always seemed like a puzzling one and Blackhat simply couldn't find an audience this weekend. The film debuted 74 percent below the $15.45 million start of last year's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Long term prospects for Blackhat are bleak and the film having received a poor C- rating on CinemaScore won't help matters either. Universal is estimating a four-day start of $4.6 million for Blackhat.

Saturday Update:

By Shawn Robbins

Warner Bros. reports that American Sniper brought in an outstanding $30.5 million on Friday, including $5.3 million from Thursday night shows and $3.1 million from IMAX shows. That easily usurps the previous January opening day record of $17.2 million by 2008's Cloverfield (not to mention director Clint Eastwood's previous best $9.6 million first wide release day by Gran Torino in 2009). Looking at all movies, the previous January record for a single-day gross was held by Avatar ($25.8 million).

Following weeks of stellar box office results ($3.3 million) from just 4 theaters in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas, Sniper's momentum snowballed through social media power (trending above all films during that time on Twitter and Facebook), strong reviews and word of mouth (particularly surrounding Bradley Cooper's performance as Chris Kyle), and of course, Thursday's Best Picture and Best Actor Oscar nominations.

To further put this opening in perspective, last year's Lone Survivor expanded into wide release with a $14.4 million opening day. Early word of mouth appears strong for Sniper with an 86 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience/Flixster score (on par with Survivor's 85 percent one day after its expansion), while the film also received an excellent "A+" CinemaScore. BoxOffice projects the biopic will take in a stunning $76 million over the 3-day weekend and $89 million for the 4-day Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. The previous record-holder was last year's Ride Along ($41.5 million/$48.6 million). Higher totals could be in store when all is said and done, but competition from NFL games on Sunday will likely have an impact. With a generally unexpected opening of this size, historical comparisons may be somewhat unreliable.

Also posting a strong debut of its own yesterday was The Wedding Ringer, earning $7.0 million in second place. The latest Kevin Hart comedy from Sony is on track to cover its $23 million production budget by the end of opening weekend, making this yet another win for the comedian's box office drawing power. The film's early RT/Flixster audience score is 78 percent, similar to Ride Along (79 percent). BoxOffice is projecting $20.5 million 3-day and $23.5 million 4-day frames, which would make it the best R-rated comedy opener in January history.

Opening in third place on Friday was The Weinstein Company's Paddington, taking in an excellent $4.7 million and making it the studio's best animated debut in their history (topping Escape from Planet Earth's $3.7 million first day). Based on the popular children's books, Paddington has garnered a fantastic 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes critics' score from over 100 reviews, while the audience score stands at a very encouraging 87 percent this morning. BoxOffice projects $18.7 million for the 3-day frame and $24.8 million over the 4-day. Expect solid legs in the weeks to come as families turn out for the beloved property.

In fourth place yesterday, Taken 3 slipped 71 percent from opening day last week to $4.25 million. The franchise sequel has earned $53 million domestically to-date. Look for a $13.8 million 3-day weekend and $16.5 million 4-day frame.

Selma took fifth place with $2.36 million yesterday, bringing its total to $20 million thus far. BoxOffice projects $8.9 million for the 3-day and $11.8 million for the 4-day.

Meanwhile, The Imitation Game added $1.88 million on its first Friday post-Oscar nominations. The film's total stands at $45.5 million and should earn $7 million and $8.6 million over the 3- and 4-day frames, respectively.

Unfortunately, Blackhat was overshadowed by the slew of new releases as it brought in just $1.4 million yesterday. The timely cybercrime flick is expected to tally $4.1 million for the 3-day and $4.7 million over the 4-day.

Top 10 -- 3-Day / 4-Day Weekend Estimates:

1. American Sniper ($76 million / $89 million)
2. The Wedding Ringer ($20.5 million / $23.5 million)
3. Paddington ($18.7 million / $24.8 million)
4. Taken 3 ($13.8 million / $16.5 million)
5. Selma ($8.9 million / $11.8 million)
6. Into the Woods ($7.7 million / $10.6 million)
7. The Imitation Game ($7.0 million / $8.6 million)
8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ($4.9 million / $6.0 million)
9. Unbroken ($4.2 million / $5.0 million)
10. Blackhat ($4.1 million / $4.7 million)

Check BoxOffice on Sunday for official weekend estimates from the studios.

Follow Shawn Robbins and BoxOffice on Twitter

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Friday Update #2: Sources tell BoxOffice that American Sniper is on pace for $56 million-$58 million over the 4-day weekend. A debut that high would be a new January record, topping the $48.6 million 4-day haul that Ride Along posted during the same weekend last year. At 84, director Clint Eastwood will also snag his biggest wide opening of all time. The Oscar-winning helmer's previous best was Gran Torino's $29.5 million tally in January 2009.

Paddington and The Wedding Ringer are performing quite well. Both films are set to open in the $25 million-$30 million range. 

Blackhat is on pace to end up with less than $10 million over four days. It's clear that the cyber thriller is losing the attention of key male demos to Sniper.

Check back tomorrow for updated projections and official studio numbers.

Friday Update #1: Warner Bros. reports that American Sniper earned an impressive $5.3 million haul from Thursday evening shows. Clint Eastwood's latest was already tracking really well before getting a boost from six Oscar nominations--including Best Picture and Best Actor--yesterday.

By comparison, Sniper's early haul is leagues above comparable titles. Lone Survivor earned $1.5 million from Thursday shows last January, Captain Phillips earned $0.6 million in October 2013, and Act of Valor took $1.1 million almost three years ago. American Sniper clearly has a big weekend ahead.

Meanwhile, sources report that Blackhat started with a much slower $179,000 from 1,755 locations.

More as it comes...

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By Daniel Garris

Fox's Taken 3 took in $1.74 million on Thursday to lead the daily box office for a seventh straight day. Yesterday will mark the final day in first place for Taken 3, as Warner's American Sniper is set to dominate this weekend after taking in an estimated $5.3 million on Thursday night (which will be counted towards Friday's performance). With moviegoers turning their attention more towards American Sniper and the other Best Picture nominees yesterday, Taken 3 was down a very sharp 18 percent from Wednesday. Taken 3 exceeded expectations this week with a first place seven-day start of $48.79 million. That places the film a reasonable 24 percent behind the $64.26 million seven-day take of 2012's Taken 2.

Selma held steady in second place with $1.12 million. With aid from its Best Picture nomination and from the approaching Martin Luther King holiday weekend, the critically acclaimed drama from Paramount was up a strong 12 percent over Wednesday. Selma placed in second for the week with a softer than expected $15.38 million. The film has grossed $17.66 million to date and is likely to hold up very well over the holiday weekend.

Fellow Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game was up one spot and 10 percent from Wednesday to place in third on Thursday with $0.829 million. The Weinstein Company release finished in sixth for the week with $10.39 million. That was down a slim 1 percent from the previous week and brings the film's domestic total to a very promising $43.61 million through seven weeks of release.

Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was down one spot and 10 percent from Wednesday to land in fourth with $0.707 million. The third and final installment of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy placed in third for the week with $12.59 million. The Battle of the Five Armies was down 55 percent from the previous week and has grossed $239.68 million through 30 days of release.

Unbroken grossed $0.643 million to remain in fifth place. The Angelina Jolie directed war drama from Universal was down 14 percent from Wednesday. Unbroken finished in fifth for the week with $11.11 million. That represented a 53 percent decline and brings the film's 22-day total to a stronger than expected $104.34 million.

Disney's Into the Woods finished closely behind in sixth with $0.624 million. The Rob Marshall directed musical was down a slim 1 percent from Wednesday. Into the Woods placed in fourth this week with $12.23 million. The film was down 48 percent from last week and has grossed a healthy $107.75 million in 22 days.

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by Patrick Corcoran, Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, NATO

The cobbled-together simultaneous release of Sony's The Interview is a Rorschach test. What you see generally tells more about you than it does about the release model of The Interview. Those inclined to believe that simultaneous theatrical and home release is inevitable point to its $31 million home tally and $5.9 million theatrical take (through January 14, 2015) and see a "game changer." Some, like me, see a blot.

Netflix's Ted Sarandos sees a "great example of what can happen with a big-budget movie if you give them distribution choices. I hope it's eye-opening for the industry." For once, we agree. So let's open some eyes.

Many industry analysts noted exhibition's oft-stated resistance to simultaneous release, pointing to the DirecTV early premium video-on-demand plan in 2011 and the canceled Tower Heist plan to offer the movie on VOD three weeks after its theatrical debut for $59.99. Several major exhibition companies announced that they would not play the movie under those circumstances, and Universal shelved the plan.

What happened when Sony announced it would be offering The Interview simultaneously in the home to accompany its Christmas theatrical release? Several major exhibition companies announced they would not play it under those circumstances. The movie played on 331 screens in its opening week--roughly the same number that were willing to play other, less well-known simultaneous releases.

Game not changed.

Some analysts grew starry-eyed at the double-digit millions taken from the home market and compared it to the lower profile Snowpiercer and Arbitrage, which took in $14 million and $11 million on VOD, respectively. These same analysts also generally neglected to note that the record holder for VOD and digital release is Bridesmaids, which took in $40 million after its traditional theatrical release grossed $169 million domestically.

Given the patriotic upsurge and massive media attention that accompanied the unusual release of The Interview, the $2.9 million in theatrical box office over the first four days was not good. Five other movies in release at the same time had higher per-screen averages, despite the fact that they played on more screens and didn't have the massive media attention. Nor did the theatrical release perform well in the second week. Despite an increase in screens of 75 percent, box office declined 40 percent. This was the case with Snowpiercer, which fell 37 percent while its screens increased more than 42 percent the same weekend it became available on VOD.

No change here either.

What was a bit surprising was the fact that The Interview's VOD revenues decreased after its opening four days, despite being available on enormously more outlets when it expanded to iTunes and cable VOD platforms around the country. The movie took in $15 million in its first four days. It took in $16 million in the next seven.

Another constant argument against simultaneous release is the erosion of value in the home market. Theatrical release has maintained a steady, modestly growing price point for years, and the pricing is per patron. Once any movie goes into the home market, it is immediately thrown into a world where price trumps nearly every other factor. The Interview is no different. The movie was offered at two price points in the home, $5.99 for rental or $14.99 for purchase. Using Sony's announced revenue and transaction figures of $31 million and 4.3 million downloads, we get an average purchase price of $7.20. The transactions clearly skewed to the lower end of the pricing spectrum.

The Wall Street Journal made an algebra problem out of it and arrived at 3.72 million opting for rental and 577,000 springing for ownership.

Further complicating the math, though, is that no one knows how many people those 4.3 million transactions represent. Some people organized viewing parties to support free speech-much as moviegoers went in groups to see the theatrical release--but we simply don't know how many people watched the average download. Was it two? Three? Suddenly that $7.20 per download becomes $3.60 per viewer or maybe $2.40. Just as a point of comparison, the average theatrical ticket price stood at $8.12 through the end of the third quarter of 2014.

The only game changed here was just how much money Sony left on the table.

An argument that is regularly advanced in favor of a shortened theatrical window is the so-called "piracy window," despite the fact that piracy increases with the availability and awareness of legitimate release and trails off the same way legitimate releases do the longer they are in the marketplace. By the end of 2014, The Interview had been downloaded from torrent sites roughly 2.5 million times. This does not count the unknown number of times the movie was watched by people whose friends had purchased the movie and shared shockingly reusable links to the movie.

When we consider whether or not the game has been changed, let's remember what the game really is. Sony invested a certain amount of money in The Interview with the intention of making a certain amount back. How much did they invest, and how much are they likely to get back?

Now, Hollywood budgets are slippery and elusive things, but it is generally accepted (in part due to hacked e-mails released online) that The Interview's production budget was $44 million, and that Sony spent an additional $30 million (some estimate $40 million) on marketing. The initial intent was to open the movie on approximately 3,800 screens, which suggests a certain confidence in its box office appeal. Most industry analysts predicted a four-day-holiday gross of around $25 million (a few went as high as $30 million).

Here things get a little speculative. To be conservative we can assume a final gross of two-and-a-half times opening weekend--not atypical of many major releases. With a $25 million opening, that gets you to $62.5 million. Holiday releases tend to have a better multiple, but again, it's tricky. Movie City News's David Poland, with his usual insightful understanding of movies' financial performance, suggests averaging the box office of Seth Rogen's comedies since Pineapple Express, which gives us $72 million (which he considers low, given the last two of Rogen's movies topped $100 million). Assume 50 percent goes back to Sony, and we are at $36 million--almost halfway there. Using the international average grosses of those same movies brings another $20 million (and, by the way, the international markets Sony has announced for The Interview will be traditional theatrical releases) or, assuming a really generous for international split of 50 percent, another $10 million back to Sony.

Now we're at $46 million.

The average theatrical release takes in roughly 60 percent of domestic box office in the home market these days-some do far worse; Neighbors managed only about 16 percent in disc sales, with rentals unknown--but it seems like a fair estimate. That's another $43 million, of which about 70 percent would return to Sony--$30 million.

Basically breakeven--$76 million in, versus $74 million out. This is before we get into pay TV and Netflix streaming and so on.

Now let's compare the traditional theatrical-release model to the simultaneous release used by Sony. As the current release plan stands, Sony can expect roughly $3.5 million from domestic theatrical (assuming a final gross of $7 million). We haven't heard any new digital dollar figures from Sony since January 4, so it's a little hard to estimate where it will end up, but I'm feeling generous. Say $50 million. Given the chaotic nature of the ad hoc release plan and Sony's desperation to play the movie on any home-release platform that would take it, I'm going to assume, less generously, that Sony pockets 60 percent of that sum (instead of the customary 70 percent)--$30 million.

We're at $33.5 million.

Let's be generous again and assume the same international box office that might have resulted from a traditional release--although with so many pirated pristine digital copies out in the wild, that may be tough. Add $10 million.

We're at $43.5 million, and it has already had a home release. Frankly, the waters here are uncharted. Premium cable usually bases what they'll pay on theatrical performance--how do you measure that? Sony has announced a DVD/Blu-Ray release for February 17--what kind of disc sales and rentals will you get when it has already been in the home? In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards.

After a few weeks of giddiness-one online piece for Time titled "Sony Has Almost Made Its Money Back on The Interview," seemed to believe that the studio keeps every penny consumers spent on it--others acknowledged the movie wasn't anywhere near recoupment but touted the change in "perception" of the idea of simultaneous release.

In a Fast Company article titled, yes, "The Interview Is A VOD Perception-Changer, Not A VOD Game-Changer," producer John Sloss--whom you may remember from my November column on simultaneous release (Ted, John--we're getting the band back together!) and whose movie Boyhood did quite well in a traditional theatrical release (more than $23 million)--seems to believe the example it provides is something like "eye-opening."

"It shines a light on the possibility," says John Sloss, the indie film sales agent and lawyer who was a producer on this year's awards movie Boyhood. "But it's a complete anomaly."

Kind of like Schrödinger's cat. Simultaneous release either works or it doesn't, but to an observer like John Sloss it's possible both are true--until you look at it.

One observer who doesn't view this release as a game changer? Sony CEO Michael Lynton. In an extensive interview with the Associated Press, Lynton said the studio views the release of a film on on-demand video and in independent theaters as "still experimental."

"You would never take a movie of this size and do what we did with it in the end," Lynton said. "It's true, it proved to be that kind of experiment, but it certainly wasn't planned." The theatrical experience is important, Lynton said, especially for comedy "because people love to laugh with each other."

"Had this not come along the way it had, we would've proceeded exactly the way we planned to do it, which is to put it out on 3,500-plus screens."

Game over.

 

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LOS ANGELES -- "Fifty Shades of Grey" doesn't open until February 13, but fans are already scooping up their tickets on Fandango to the hotly-anticipated adaptation of the popular best-seller. The film is currently the fastest-selling R-rated title in Fandango's 15-year history, already outpacing several major hits.

Fandango's top-5 R-rated advance ticketers, in first week of sales (as of Friday, January 16, 2015):
1. "Fifty Shades of Grey" (2014)
2. "Sex and the City 2" (2010)
3. "The Hangover Part II" (2011)
4. "The Hangover Part III" (2013)
5. "Gone Girl" (2014)

"Fifty Shades" is also having the biggest first week of ticket sales on Fandango for a non-sequel film, since the first "Hunger Games" movie in 2012, which still holds the record. Theater owners are posting new show times each day on Fandango to meet the hot fan demand in all the fifty states.

"It's tracking to be Fandango's fastest-selling R-rated movie of all time," says Fandango Chief Correspondent Dave Karger. "Very few books can claim true national phenomenon status - and ‘Fifty Shades' ranks with ‘Twilight,' "The Hunger Games' and ‘Gone Girl" as novels that entered the zeitgeist from coast to coast. Fans of the book have been waiting for years to see their favorite sexy characters come to life on the big screen, and they are clearly fueling our sensational advance sales."

At the end of December 2014, Fandango surveyed more than 1,000 ticket-buyers, asking them which 2015 films they're most excited to see on the big screen. "Fifty Shades" ranked among the top four films, along with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2," while "Fifty Shades" star Jamie Dornan was voted "Biggest Male Breakout Movie Star of 2015."

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