UPDATE, 4:37 PM: Within hours of deciding to make The Interview available for a Christmas Day release, Sony has restored its YouTube trailers and promotional videos, restarting the social-media battle for audience attention it ceded to the competition last week in the face of cyber attackers’ threats. Check the final trailer for the movie above, now available again on the Sony Pictures YouTube site.

With the social-media campaign back up and rolling, The Interview will hit more than 200 theaters on Christmas Day against a raft of challengers big and small.

“With Sony having just reposted within the past two hours all of The Interview promotional videos, we see from reconstructing our YouTube data that the film captured 13.5 million total views to date, 8.9 million of which were earned, which means that, had Sony not pulled the film from theaters, it would have been a pretty good matchup with Into The Woods in terms of box-office results,” said Strike Social CEO Patrick McKenna. “Certainly it would have outpaced Unbroken and The Gambler by a significant margin at the box office.”

This video is private shotPREVIOUS: Sony’s reversal on The Interview theatrical release will require a quick restart of its previously very strong campaign for the comedy feature ahead of its now revived and considerably more limited Christmas Day debut. So far, Sony Pictures appears to be moving slowly, based on a check a few minutes ago of what once was the very popular YouTube video trailer of the movie above. It’s still in private mode and can’t be seen by outsiders.

“Total YouTube views for The Interview were flying at 34M until the top videos were shut down around Dec. 18, bringing the total down to 16M” for all videos related to the film, said Marc Karzen, CEO of RelishMix, a consulting firm that monitors film and TV properties on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

For comparison, the YouTube videos for Into the Woods and Unbroken have both attracted around 5 million videos, said another social-media consultancy, Strike Social. That presages very good box office debuts for both on Christmas Day, while the trailer for another holiday bow, The Gambler, is attracting considerably less attention, just 800,000 views so far. Strike Social said that bodes poorly for The Gambler’s prospects, while Into the Woods looks very strong, even with The Interview’s re-entry into the market in a small way.

“Sony took down all of its promotional videos for Interview after it made the decision to pull the film, and so far hasn’t put them back up,” said Strike Social CEO Patrick McKenna. “But given the film will only be shown in a small number of theaters, it isn’t likely to have any significant impact, especially given Woods’ very strong engagement on YouTube. Even prior to Sony taking the videos down, Interview didn’t show much traction on YouTube, based upon our data.” 

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 1.04.55 PMThat seems particularly the case with the revival of The Interview, which might have drawn audiences from a similar demographic. The question will be if and when Sony can restart its marketing machine for The Interview, Karzen said.

“Will those video be reconnected or reposted?” Karzen asked. “Certainly no film has experienced this sort of attention in the social media era, if ever.”
On Twitter, @TheInterview still has no publicly visible tweets, despite more than 36,000 followers and 45 previous posts that had built up a significant following.
Of course, at this point, restarting the publicity machine for a limited release, especially one that has received the international attention at the highest levels of not just pop culture but government, law enforcement and the military, may not be wholly necessary. It’s safe to say anyone who might be interested in the film has heard something about it already.
Holtsville NY theater the interview facebook post
The absence of official social-media sites hasn’t kept some of the estimated 100 theaters willing to run the film from beginning to post their own announcements, as detailed in our main story. For example, the Island 16 in Holtsville, NY, has already posted this on Facebook, announcing it will be showing the film. More to come as we find it.