Sony were probably expecting a rather depressing Christmas this year. Their dirty laundry had been spread around the world, the internal finances of the company had been exposed to rivals, and worst of all, one of their most anticipated titles looked like it would never see the light of day.
The Sony hacking scandal - which has been supposedly linked to the North Korean government (or sympathizers thereof) - almost saw the indefinite cancellation of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy, The Interview.
The film's release, which was originally scheduled on Christmas Day, was temporarily postponed after ambiguous "9/11-esque" threats were made to theaters who planned to show it. Following this, Sony announced it would not show the film as several major cinema chains had dropped their support.
The backlash that followed - which included criticism from Barack Obama - led Sony to re-evaluate the situation and instead decide to release the movie on VOD and in some independent theaters.
It seems this move may have just saved Sony's Christmas - or at the very least, made it a bit more palatable.
As of last weekend, The Interview has made $15 million from VOD sales alone, making it Sony's most successful VOD release of all time. In addition to this, The Interview also brought in $3 million from the 331 arthouse and independent cinemas which did agree to show the film.
Considering Sony had originally planned an opening weekend of $20 million from 3,000 cinema screens, this isn't half bad at all.
Will Sony Have the Last Laugh?
The Interview has certainly received a whole lot of publicity from the recent controversy. Even my parents - who presumably have never heard of Seth Rogen - have been talking about the film this Christmas.
The Interview regularly appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, while the decision to eventually show the film on VOD was similarly a big news story. All of this has probably acted as great free marketing for The Interview.
As a result, the film has already been downloaded over 2 million times, and with renting the film costing $5.99 and buying it costing $14.99, that's not a figure to scoff at.
All told, the production and marketing of The Interview is expected to be around the $75 million mark - which is quite steep for a comedy. Furthermore, it is much higher than the budget of most movies which are originally considered for VOD launches. With this in mind, it might be tough for Sony to make a healthy profit on the film's VOD release.
Having said that, it can be presumed Sony has saved on the costs of distributing the film to theaters, while they will also take a bigger cut of VOD sales as opposed to traditional ticket sales. Also, these figures do not include The Interview's iTunes sales, which could also be significant.
All told, considering it was looking likely we wouldn't see The Interview at all, things have gone exceedingly well for Sony.
Was This All A Marketing Stunt?
Although no one is likely to suggest Sony orchestrated the entire hacking scandal to publicise one movie - there have been theories online that Sony "cancelled" and then "uncancelled" The Interview as part of a clever free marketing campaign.
Personally, I'm not convinced, especially when you consider the impetus for cancelling the movie came from theater chains and not Sony themselves. However, it's not outside the realms of possibility that Sony did temporarily cancel the film in order to drive up anticipation for a VOD release. That sounds like something a savvy marketing director might come up with, don't you think?
Do you think the cancellation of The Interview was a marketing ploy by Sony?