The Interview breaks online movie sales records: A case for simultaneous releases
It is exceedingly hard to find an angle that presents The Interview in a positive light — and yet, of course, Sony Pictures’ marketing department has managed to do just that. Yesterday, four days after the film’s release on YouTube, Google Play Movies, and Xbox Video, The Interview became Sony’s “#1 online film of all time,” grossing $15 million from sales and rentals in the US and Canada. In other news, however, the film made a massive loss at conventional cinemas — and it would appear, rather ironically, that Sony used a popular K-pop song without permission of artist, who is now looking to sue Sony for the piracy of her work. In short, it’s looking like The Interview might become one of the most controversial and successful — but failed — films of all time.
On December 18, Sony canceled the release of The Interview, after major movie theater partners got spooked by threats of terrorism. The threats originated from a hacker group — but at this point, I don’t think anyone knows if this was the original group of hackers that broke into Sony Pictures, or if it was just someone riding on their coattails. The fallout from the cancellation wasn’t pretty: A lot of people saw this as North Korea dictating what American audiences can and can’t watch. Six days later, Sony announced that it had found a solution: The Interview would still be released on December 25, Christmas Day — but primarily online, with just a handful of independent movie theaters sallying into the fray. It’s shocking, I know, but despite the threats there were no terrorist attacks on the theaters that daringly screened the movie.
The Interview, on Google Play. Sadly, it’s not available to purchase in the UK yet.
Anyway, yesterday Sony announced that The Interview had taken $15 million in online rentals and sales in the US and Canada, meaning it now “ranks as Sony Pictures #1 online film of all time.” It’s actually quite hard to find sales/rentals figures for other online movie releases, but I suspect $15 million puts The Interview near the top of the pile across all movie studios. The limited movie theater release only saw box office sales of just $1 million on Christmas Day, but we don’t have an updated figure from the last few days. It’s worth pointing out Apple didn’t add The Interview to iTunes until yesterday, too — so that $15 million was particularly impressive for just three days of sales on YouTube, Google Play, and Xbox Video.
In other news, TorrentFreak is reporting of a rather odd case of piracy: Sony included a song in The Interview without permission from the artist or label — and of course, millions of people have now downloaded the movie, legitimately or otherwise. Sony was reportedly in “initial discussions” to use the song — “Pay Day” by Yoon Mi-rae — but the discussions fell through, and Yoon’s label assumed Sony wouldn’t use the song. This was probably just an oversight by Sony — it has had a lot on its plate over the last few weeks — but the label, Feel Ghood Music, says it will sue Sony for reparations.
Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s supreme leader
As it stands, The Interview certainly seems like one of the weirdest and most controversial film releases ever — or at least, I can’t think of any film that has been lumbered with quite so much corollary crud. We’re talking about a film that was (apparently) the reason for one of the highest-profile hacks of all time, saber-rattling from the FBI, possibly the DDoS of North Korea’s entire internet connection, terrorist threats, and more.
At least one good thing has come of this whole snafu, however: The Interview is probably the first big-budget movie to be simultaneously released online and at theaters. So far, studios have been very wary of simultaneous releases, as they have no idea what the knock-on effects might be. Will people stop going to the cinema if they can get the film online? Would it actually increase revenues if people could buy the movie online on release day, rather than resorting to downloading pirated cam and telecine rips? I dare say that an “opening weekend” of $15 million, without iTunes, is actually quite impressive. Who knows — maybe, given the success of The Interview, we’ll see a simultaneous online/offline release of a major film in 2015.
Now read: Who really hacked Sony Pictures? It probably wasn’t North Korea
- Thanks for reading The Interview breaks online movie sales records: A case for simultaneous releases