In a surprising turn of events, Sony has decided to release the controversial comedy film “The Interview” in various digital platforms, prompting what can be considered as one of the most bizarre movie releases in history. On the eve of Christmas, the entertainment giant announced that the movie would be available on Xbox, Google Play, YouTube and a proprietary site in which viewers could rent the movie for $5.99 or buy a high definition DVD copy for $14.99.
Seth Rogen and James Franco, two of the main stars of the R-rated movie, were quick to let the world know about the good news. They took to Twitter to express their excitement and their tweets amassed a huge number of retweets within a small amount of time. The movie was also released on a select number of independent theaters.
The Interview has been at the core of a month-long hacking controversy by cyber terrorists. The attempt was immediately linked to North Korea, but there’s still no conclusive evidence to pinpoint the real identities of the hackers. They are simply known as the Guardians of Peace, announcing that the US would face severe consequences if the movie were to be released. The North Korea government, despite keeping mum on the hacking itself, said that they view the release of the movie as an act of war.
Celebrities, producers and ordinary citizens were saddened by Sony’s initial decision of pulling the movie from all theaters. Many say the company should not have given in to the threats of cyber terrorists. Large theater chains in the US, meanwhile, banded together and decided not to release the film, fearing possible terrorist attacks. Sony, however, has said that they have always intended to find a national platform on which people can view the film.
Their course of action was to reach out to a number of online streaming services. They made arrangements as to the film’s online release, setting it on the same day as the theatrical release. They chose the path of digital distribution because they believe it’s the best route to take to allow as many people to watch the film as possible, considering that large theater chains were not an option.
The satirical film which features an interview-turned-assassination-attempt of Kim Jong Un by a couple of journalists had a production budget of $44 million. It was originally slated to be released in 3,000 theaters, but after the threats of terrorism, Sony decided to screen the film in only about 200 independent theaters.
A New Model of Distribution
Interestingly, this has opened a whole a new discussion in terms of movie distribution. Studio executives are going to keep an eye on how The Interview performs digitally. The theatrical total would certainly be lower than what it would have been had the film been released in large theaters. But will the revenue from the digital platforms be enough to cover this huge hole? If so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when certain films get released on digital platforms and only a handful of theaters, especially when the production companies make the same amount of dollars as a traditional release.
Now, it’s hard to say what has been more enjoyable: the film itself—which was actually pretty good—or the behind-the-scenes fiasco that has captivated the entire nation for a month. Who knew that a comedy film such as The Interview would give the people three stories to follow: (1) the plot of the movie itself, (2) what the government plans to do to combat cyber terrorists and prevent future cyber vandalism, and finally (3) whether studios would put more emphasis on digital platforms for future releases. Which one are you going to keep an eye on?