The ordeal that began with a devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures (possibly) in retaliation for the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy – The Interview – is slowly wrapping up. The film that Sony had pulled from theaters after receiving violent threats eventually did screen in a few hundred theaters come Christmas Day, but it was their decision to release the film online that’s been getting the most recent buzz.
In the wake of backlash that saw much of the public – including The President! – looking down on Sony for caving to the demands of terrorists and violating our most invoked right of free speech, the studio chose to distribute The Interview online via services like Google Play, Youtube Movies and Xbox Video.
That decision has apparently proved a lucrative one, with Deadline reporting that the film’s online sales and rentals have so far earned Sony roughly $15 million.
That may not be nearly as much as the film would have grossed were it released in theaters as planned, but it’s a whole lot more than Sony would have made had it not been released at all. In addition to the revenue made from its VOD release, The Interview also earned $2.8 million from the theaters “brave” enough to screen the controversial comedy.
The day-and-date release of feature films – which is the practice of making a film available to rent, typically through some online streaming service, on the same day as its theatrical release – has been a thorn in the side of movie theaters for some time. Just earlier this year, The Weinstein Company and Netflix caused an uproar with their plans for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 to have a day-and-date release, with many theater chains publicly refusing to screen the film.
The Interview‘s VOD release, however, didn’t happen because Sony was interested in cutting the theaters outs of the equation; rather, it was one of the few options left to them in the wake of a still somewhat unfathomable situation where another country felt so threatened by the film’s release – going so far as to call the comedy an act of war – that they allegedly launched a cyber terrorism attack. (And actually, The Interview may still be causing problems for North Korea.)
Yet, at the end of the day, it’s the movie theaters – those that chose not to screen the film, and more so those that did – that might not appreciate Sony’s decision to make The Interview available online. It’s hard to know for sure, but the VOD release could cut into the business of theaters that chose to screen the film. Plus, it basically killed any chance of the film receiving a wider theatrical release down the line.
Were you surprised that Sony chose to release The Interview online? How will this possibly affect future studio/movie theater relations when it comes to day-and-date releases? Sound off in the comments below!
The Interview is currently screening in select theaters around the U.S., and is also available to rent or purchase on various VOD outlets.