Sony: ‘The Interview’ Has Made Over $15 Million Online

The Interview Seth Rogen James Franco

“The Interview” is shaping up to be a groundbreaking VOD success, earning $15 million online through Saturday.

The comedy, which has earned nearly $3 million in theaters, was rented or downloaded over 2 million times since hitting the Internet on Wednesday, Sony disclosed. It was never supposed to be this way.

The film about a hapless TV host tasked with assassinating Kim Jong-un was originally intended to be released on roughly 3,000 screens on Christmas Day. It was expected to generate $20 million during its opening.

However, the gory subject matter likely inspired a cyber-attack from North Korea that brought Sony to its knees. After hackers evoked 9/11 and threatened violence, a theatrical release was briefly scuttled before Sony backtracked and lined up 331 arthouse and independent theaters willing to show the film. Its decision to release the film simultaneously on-demand and theatrically infuriated major exhibitors who refused to show the picture on their screens.

Overhauling the film’s rollout required the input of its theatrical distribution team, as well as its home entertainment staff.

“We worked hard to get the film out there by Christmas Day,” Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution, told Variety on Sunday morning. “It was such a whirlwind to get it done that it kind of amazes me that we were able to make it happen.”

In this case, controversy paid off. After four days, “The Interview” ranks as Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing online release of all time. It also outstrips recent VOD successes such as “Snowpiercer,” which earned $8.2 million on demand, as well as “Arbitrage” ($14 million) and “Bachelorette” ($8.2 million). Sony’s decision to provide numbers for “The Interview’s” VOD sales and rentals give rare insight into the home entertainment results of a major film release, figures that usually remain shrouded in secrecy.

Sony did not disclose the financial terms of its deals with online distributors, but in the past they have been more favorable than the revenue split studios share with theater chains. During a theatrical release, ticket sales are usually evenly divided, but digital release tend to favor the studios behind the films.

“The Interview” will depend heavily on its on-demand grosses. The R-rated comedy cost roughly $75 million to produce and market — far more than most films that employ a simultaneous theatrical and on-demand strategy.

The film has been available on YouTube, Google Play and Microsoft Xbox since Christmas Eve, as well as a site set up specifically to show the film. Google Play and Google-owned YouTube are responsible for the bulk of the film’s $15 million total, according to an individual with knowledge.

Apple’s iTunes began offering the film on Sunday, after the digital numbers were tallied. The movie rents for $5.99 and sells for $14.99. Unlike “Snowpiercer” or other VOD hits, “The Interview” is not available for sale or rental on DirecTV or other cable providers.

Netflix is in talks to secure “The Interview,” but no deal has been struck yet.

Todd Spangler contributed to this report.

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  1. pewylord says:

    I think it should be in the theaters now it been awhile the threat Is over north Korea does not care the government cant stop a movie from theater if they do they have to pay what it’s worth Seth cant lose 50 million

  2. Adrian says:

    It’s available on cable provider Shaw on their On-Demand service now in Canada

  3. budi says:

    Well…gonna check Youtube then

  4. Gwain52 says:

    Just finished watching The Interview. Very funny! Now, to bring that dictator down, all we need to do is figure out a way to smuggle a N.-Korean-.language version of that movie into the country.

  5. Paully says:

    Big mistake for exhibitors. They just proved that people and studios don’t need to release to theaters. Except for Star Wars 7 or a James Bond 007 film you can just relax on the couch and watch your new 4K TV set. Smart move.

  6. That fat little North Korean dumpling is an international joke, and his response to this latest example of political satire is further evidence as to why this is the case.

    Unfortunately, based on our recent track record on foreign policy, nobody is afraid of us anymore.

    I know I’ll get blasted for this comment, but I think the weakness of the Obama administration is being exploited here. Even if NK carried out an attack, would Obama retaliate? I wanted President Obama to be successful. However, he is so incredibly weak, and empty. He has screwed up all the huge gains in Iraq and let ISIS and the Taliban run amok in the Middle East.

    Internationally and domestically he is in over his head. He ruined health insurance. My health insurance is up to $450/month from just $200/month. My car insurance is currently only $25/month (from Insurance Panda) and renter’s only $15/month (from Eagle)…both private enterprise… but who knows when Obama will try to step in and socialize that?

    Again, I could be wrong, but I think Obama’s weakness is at play here. We need to remove “the home of the brave” from our national anthem.

    It’s sad that we even considered bending to the will of North Korea.

  7. ezekiel says:

    gosh, real disappoint to watch it.
    their typical dumb humor…

    • jessica says:

      Can you give me facts that support North Korea hacked Sony? North Korea has repeatedly said they did not do it. Don’t believe everything you read. North Korea has too many internal problems to care about a silly American movie. When the hack was first reported, it was said that it had to have come from within Sony. Probably from one of the recently fired employees. If the movie costs over 75 million to make then grossing close to 20 million is not a success. The sales will only go down from here. The movie will be lucky to break even. That is not a win.

  8. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    The FBI stated they have no evidence of a cyber attack coming from North Korea. I believe now this was a concocted sick plot to open a relatively bad comedy on Xmas Day and to generate records breaking BO. I believe the world has been duped. And since this is a Japanese controled Company, any internal or outside Investigation is unlikely. For every wrong reason and probably some clever Oscar night jokes, The Interview is the worst Film to get the most hype. My Holiday wish to Sony Pictures is to make better movies.

  9. Anon says:

    Not that they didn’t do a good job with the time they had, but if the release was done on a big bigger scale online, more countries, more platforms (Sony’s own PSN network didn’t have it), they probably would have done better. Glad to see these numbers though

  10. nick says:

    This cyber hack is The Quiet American in the world of cyber terrorism. People owe North Korea an apology.

  11. Lloyd berardy says:

    I’ve watched it twice already and thought it was much better than I was expecting. There were some genuinely funny parts. Great marketing strategy.

  12. Except that it wasn’t North Korea. Many, many updates on the hackers — latest, it was set off by a Sony employee who was laid off and disgruntled, code-name “Lena.” Please stop perpetuating a fake narrative, Variety. Do some actual journalism for once. Here’s just one headline — other major media sources have more in depth coverage. http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/27/tech/north-korea-expert-doubts-about-hack/

    • Oh, CNN is the true news? The sourse of true journalism? Pretty girls in HD talking about liberal bullshit in closeup? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That post is so much funnier than The Interview!

    • Fred Smith says:

      All of that is still speculation. None of it has been proven. Stop stating it as if it’s fact. I’ll give the FBI the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure they have access to a LOT more information than all these people speculating. Also, they did investigate that employee being talked about before they concluded it was N Korea. Only they know what they found

    • danR says:

      Because every commenter knows more about determining ascription than the CIA, DIA, NSA, and FBI put together.

      • Get your heads on straight, the NSA did it! The Lone Wolf / disgruntled employee story is as dumb as it is unoriginal. The same story as always: create the problem, blame someone else, fix the “problem” in a way that benefits you. The NSA hacked Target, Home Depot, Sony and got just what they wanted – a new era of cyber legislation for the government to have even more control over the U.S. internet. It has nothing to do with Sony, The Interview, “Lena,” or North Korea. Just like 9/11, our governments covert actions were blamed on foreign parties and the boogeyman North Korea was served up on a platter as the culprit via this garbage movie. And we argue over Pascal and bullshit while they laugh. Variety, as long as you publish this shit I’ll comment.

  13. Tony Manne says:

    Exhibs “infuriated” that Sony went digital??? Who told Sony they wouldn’t play the film in their cinemas under the cyber-threats, and now the digital release is the justification??? Re-writing history already.

  14. Jason says:

    Such bs. Thank the media abs their over coverage. And the stupid Americans who will buy into anything.

  15. grammar police says:

    “gory” subject matter? and you mean invoked, not evoked. who wrote this? get an editor, man.

  16. Jesse Galvan says:

    …and the CEO of Sony was crying, that he didn’t think they would recover the total cost ($15 million) of making this movie with all it’s bad publicity. It’s only been out 4 days. They got all this FREE Publicity and he is probably laughing all the way to the bank.

    • danR says:

      This thing cost 75 million (Gawd only knows how; it was filmed mostly in my own low-overhead city). It will be lucky to break even.

    • Mhm says:

      Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Sony was crying all about the wasted money, yet they’re now on the road to make far more than they would have made originally.

      • danR says:

        Unless they go international online distro, they won’t come near to breaking even on the $75 megs. I’d estimate they’ve already gotten 30% of the U.S. viewers already. This thing is going to wind down over the next week and it’s over.

  17. Filme noi says:

    I’ve wathed it online and was a funny parody. James Franco totally rocks!

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