Cable, satellite, telecom, and online VOD numbers are in for Sony’s The Interview, and surprise! Seth Rogen and James Franco’s controversial comedy “is Sony Pictures’ #1 online film of all time,” the studio trumpeted today. While Sony’s limited theatrical release brought in $5 million, The Interview notched a whopping $31 million with 4.3 million transactions from film rentals and sales between December 24 and January 4. All hail the new distribution future?
Consider it a bittersweet win for embattled Sony, which spent the hectic holiday break playing fast and loose with The Interview’s distribution strategy. Initially pulled from wide release following alarming threats to public safety from cyberterrorists, the $44 million-budgeted comedy was reset for a Christmas Day release in 300+ independent theaters before unveiling a last-minute digital rollout on December 24.
That 11th hour VOD release raked in $15 million in its first weekend from Apple’s iTunes, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Live network, and Sony’s SeeTheInterview.com at $5.99 per streaming rental and $14.99 a pop to purchase.
And that was before cablers, satellite, and telecom platforms joined the party on New Year’s Day, adding iN DEMAND affiliates including Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable, VUBIQUITY affiliates including Charter Communications, Cablevision, and AT&T U-verse TV, Verizon FiOS, DIRECTV, VUDU, Walmart’s digital VOD service, and DISH.
America’s curiosity was piqued for the middlingly-reviewed comedy about two bumbling TV journalists sent to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, which Rogen and Evan Goldberg directed from a script they penned with Dan Sterling. So those are pretty sweet VOD numbers for Sony, who made the most of The Interview hacking fiasco and, as studio head Michael Lynton promised, released it in its “widest possible distribution” after the major theater chains bowed out en masse early on.
The Interview’s alternative distribution coup also far eclipses the returns of VOD success stories like Radius-TWC’s Snowpiercer ($8.2 million) and Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate’s Arbitrage ($14 million) and Margin Call ($8 million) while revealing VOD’s revenue potential and the value of transparency in reporting. Not that the circumstances leading to The Interview’s once in a lifetime cyberhacking hook can or will be replicated any time soon – knock on wood.