The Interview earned more than $15 million in online sales and $3 million through 300 independent movie theater box offices the holiday weekend, Sony announced on Sunday. The combined earnings make up approximately only 18 percent of the controversial comedy’s $100 million production costs (including marketing).
Yet what would count as an unmitigated opening weekend failure for any other Hollywood production is a watershed moment in movie distribution. What’s more, the story surrounding this arguably mediocre comedy continues to be the far more interesting one, rich with irony, filled with surprise twists, and not over yet.
As ReadWrite’s Adriana Lee noted last week, The Interview won’t so much be remembered for James Franco and Seth Rogen’s portrayal of two bumblers tasked with assassinating North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-un, but for the way the movie changed the way Hollywood distributes new films. Mainstream movie theaters, already losing revenue to home viewing, may have hastened their demise by refusing to show The Interview following threats of violence.
Now that the movie audience has a taste for streaming a mainstream Hollywood premiere on YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Video, and a Stripe-affiliated site called seetheinterview.com, and now iTunes, the demand will grow. Streaming The Interview is $5.99 to rent; $14.99 to buy; far less than even a matinee screening for two. For those who enjoy a movie theater experience, approximately 300 independent U.S. movie theaters premiered The Interview, too.
iTunes, A Little Tardy, Arrives At The Party
Apple’s sudden change of heart is a strong indication that at-home premiere screening is an inevitability. Last week, the tech giant demured from jumping on The Interview-streaming bandwagon, now it’s on board and The Interview is on iTunes. Clearly, the company that helped change the music industry via streaming doesn’t want to miss out on the future.
As with all economies, a black market has emerged; The Interview has been downloaded illegally two million times, TorrentFreak reports. Piracy happens. But whether streaming movie premieres are a sustainable model doesn’t depend on The Interview’s ability to recoup its cost, but its ability to earn enough money to make the whole effort worthwhile.
Future premieres likely won’t have to deal with the incalculable costs wrought by the hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the perpetrators of which claim The Interview as their motive.
The True Story Is Better Than The Movie
The historically devastating corporate cyberattack leaked a mountain of embarrassing and business-related Sony emails and documents on the Internet. The U.S. government believes North Korea is behind the attack, a belief bolstered by President Barack Obama. Security experts, however, have expressed doubts. Meanwhile, North Korea denies connection to the Sony hack, and on Saturday blamed the U.S. on Saturday for its recent 9 1/2-hour Internet outage.
“The U.S., a big country, started disturbing the Internet operation of major media of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), not knowing shame like children playing a tag,” read a statement from North Korea’s National Defense Commission. Threatening nonspecific retaliation, the statement goes on to insult the U.S. president specifically. “Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest.”
Yeah, this story isn’t ending anytime soon