After all the controversy surrounding Sony's decision to pull the comedy film The Interview (read our review) from theaters following a terrorist threat made by the "Guardians of Peace," the studio has decided to do a 180 and distribute the movie after all. Yesterday it was revealed that they had authorized screenings at several hundred theaters, with a simultaneous video on demand (VOD) release deemed a distinct possibility as well.
Sony CEO Michael Lynton said that the studio was working on making the controversial project available to as many people as possible (since the theatrical release is only about 300 locations), and he delivered on that statement. A complete online release plan for The Interview has been set, with several streaming platforms participating in this unprecedented event.
Deadline first reported that the film would be available on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Xbox Video, and the site SeeTheInterview.com. Viewers can rent it for $5.99 or purchase it for $14.99 beginning at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Shortly after, Variety revealed that Netflix was in talks with Sony to acquire the rights to the film so that they could stream it for their 53 million subscribers worldwide.
This is a quick turnaround after Sony had canceled the previously scheduled nationwide Christmas release, when they said that they had no plans for the film to see the light of day. That decision upset many moviegoers and industry professionals, who expressed concern over the dangerous precedent it set and the ethical issues raised. It's unknown if the public outcry had anything to do with this, but it's very likely it had at least some influence on Sony.
As we've said before, The Interview is not being hailed as a fantastic comedic masterpiece and on the latest Screen Rant Underground podcast, our editors wondered if it even had the momentum to score a high box office gross if it came out under normal circumstances. The Sony server hack, while extremely damaging for the studio, acted as a twisted means of free publicity for the film and now more and more people have become interested in seeing what all the fuss was about. With a comprehensive online release set in addition to the theaters, Sony could make a pretty penny off of their investment.
While the VOD release was mostly expected (eventually), it is a little surprising that it's happening the day before the theatrical release. THR is reporting that a number of theatrical engagements have been sold out, but the online distribution could have a major impact on how many people make the trek to the closest multiplex to watch an arguably average comedy film. Viewers enjoy seeing films from the comfort of their own home, and with that option available for The Interview (a high-profile new release from a major studio), it will be interesting to see how much it makes at the traditional box office.
Regardless, Sony should make plenty of money no matter where the majority of their revenue comes from. Over the past couple of weeks, the film has acquired an army of fervent supporters who expressed a desire to watch The Interview out of some sort of patriotic duty. Now, everyone has the option to see it if they so please, which was the ultimate end game we had all hoped to see.
The Interview will be available on various online platforms today and will hit theaters on Christmas.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.