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Sony write-down follows another troubling year at the box office

Fintech Intelligence Digital Newsletter: April 2021


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Episode 14: A Quantum of Technology

Sony write-down follows another troubling year at the box office

Sony Corp. has had a difficult run at the box office since a late 2014 hack reverberated through its movie business, and 2016 did not represent a return to form.

The company on Jan. 30 said that it recorded an impairment charge of nearly $1 billion, citing "downward revision in the future profitability projection for the Motion Pictures business." Sony's disclosure stressed reduced expectations for its home entertainment business in particular, though it also alluded to difficulties at the box office.

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Critically praised "Ghostbusters" failed to live up to financial expectations for Sony.
Source: Columbia Pictures

Two big-budget titles that Sony was hoping to make into blockbusters in 2016 ultimately flopped. Jennifer Lawrence's and Chris Pratt's "Passengers," which cost $111.3 million and was hammered by critics leading up to the release, opened to a dismal $14.9 million and left theaters barely in the black at a 4.8% profit margin. The all-female reboot of "Ghostbusters" scored a win with critics, earning a 73% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but failed to equally engage audiences. It left theaters in the red by 13.3%.

All together, 11 wide releases from Sony-owned studios failed to reach profitability in 2016, compared to just six that did turn a profit. Titles like "The Bronze," "The Brothers Grimsby" and "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" each left theaters in the red on triple-digit or greater profit-loss margins.

Still, Sony's Columbia Pictures scored a few notable wins in 2016. "Don’t Breathe" opened to $26.4 million, well above many forecasts that had predicted less than $15 million for its opening. The $10.1 million budget thriller went on to collect $93.5 million and leave theaters on a 46.9% profit margin. Few estimates put "Sausage Party" over $30 million, but it ended up opening at $34.3 million and leaving with a nine-figure net profit and a 44.5% margin. "The Shallows" more than doubled some of its estimates, with $16.8 million in its opening weekend leading to a 30.0% margin.

While more titles flopped than flourished, Sony managed to end 2016 with a slight profit on the year's wide releases, averaging a 3.1% profit margin overall.

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