‘The Interview’ Makes $40 Million Online and On-Demand

The Interview James Franco Seth Rogen

Despite terrorist threats and a last-minute digital release, “The Interview” has generated over $40 million in rentals and sales, Sony Pictures reports.

In addition, “The Interview” has been rented or purchased online and through cable, satellite, and telecom providers more than 5.8 million times from Wednesday, December 24, 2014, through Sunday, January 18, 2015.

After major theater chains pulled out of showing “The Interview,” Sony Pictures had to scramble to pull together an emergency digital release for the R-rated comedy. The publicity surrounding the cancellation appears to have helped “The Interview” find an audience online and on-demand.

Despite those impressive figures, it’s not clear if the film will be profitable. It cost roughly $75 million to produce and market, according to knowledgeable insiders, and theatrical ticket sales have been minuscule. The film has made roughly $6 million domestically.

The film about a hapless TV host tasked with assassinating North Korea’s Kim Jong-un was originally intended to be released on roughly 3,000 screens on Christmas Day. However, the subject matter allegedly 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.

After Sony announced it was changing course and releasing the film on digital platforms, major theater chains refused to screen it. That left a few hundred arthouse and independent theaters that were willing to exhibit the picture.

A Bloomberg report citing a person close to the studio stated that Sony expects to break even on the film, but that math has been disputed by the National Association of Theatre Owners. In a Box Office magazine column, NATO spokesperson Patrick Corcoran argued that the film will lose $30 million.

“In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards,” he wrote. “The only game changed here was just how much Sony left on the table.”

In a press release touting the latest digital and on-demand figures, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton offered a rosier assessment.

“We always said that we would get the movie to the greatest audience possible,” said Lynton. “Achieving over $40 million in digital sales is a significant milestone.”

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  1. Bry says:

    The Interview will go down in history as the film that wrote the textbook on how to market a digital-only release.

    It also highlights the vulnerability of the exhibition industry to actual violence and threats of violence.

    Exhibitors need to heed the wake-up call this film provides and re-engineer the security systems at all of the nation’s multiplexes to render themselves, to any future attack, invincible.

    They need to do it without making film patrons feel like they’re living in a police state. They need to do it quickly and quietly and they need to get the ball rolling now.

    Christopher Nolan expressed it most eloquently after the Aurora shooting when he said: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating…”

    There must never be another crime like Aurora. Never again.

    We, as a society, must not let the passage of time result in the acceptance of poorly engineered security systems theaters.

    The exhibition industry needs to urgently make the necessary investments to implement elegant, sophisticated solutions that address this vulnerability and they need to employ a workforce composed of smart, capable veterans.

    The end goal needs to be that going out to the theater is an experience that is nothing but serene.

    • Textbook case says:

      The Interview is the textbook case of a studio trying to cause an international incident with a dangerous dictator as a marketing stunt and it going very very wrong.

      With worldwide hipe, the FBI and the President of the United States involved and half the country seemingly screaming for its release as a free speech statement you could not ask for more publicity on top of 30 million already spent on marketing.

      That and a pathetic 6 million at the box office means 40 million digitally is clearly an epic failure on the most media hyped film in a long time.

      I think NATO handily won this battle over same day release even though it was all Sony Pictures decisions.

      The only real winners in the whole mess were the indie theaters who are clearly willing to stand up for free speech even for an incredibly crappy racist film.

      Fortunately the indie theaters are more often the bastion of true art filmmaking with important cultural or intellectual value as opposed to such adolescent rubish.

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