The furore surrounding the release of Sony's The Interview has seemingly settled down, and now it's quite clear the controversial Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg comedy will NOT lead to an international nuclear exchange, we can concern ourselves with the truly important question: Did it make any money?
The Interview certainly didn't have an orthodox release. After hackers - allegedly connected or affiliated with North Korea - made obscure threats against movie theaters planning to show the film, many of mainstream cinemas withdrew The Interview from their line-up.
As a result, Sony decided to indefinitely cancel the planned Christmas Day release of the movie. However, following mass public criticism - including from President Obama - Sony finally decided to release The Interview on VOD platforms, as well as in around 100 independent cinemas.
At the time, it was the largest and most lucrative VOD release in Sony history, although now it seems even this feat might not have been enough to make back the movie's budget. Although official figures are yet to be released, Patrick Corcoran of The National Association of Theater Owners (that's the NATO which doesn't bomb people) told BoxOffice Magazine that he predicts Sony will lose $30 million on The Interview, meaning it will only recoup around 60% of its costs. He stated:
In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards. The only game changed here was just how much Sony left on the table... We haven’t heard any new digital dollar figures from Sony since Jan. 4, so it’s a little hard to estimate where it will end up[…]Given the chaotic nature of the ad-hoc release plan and Sony’s desperation to play the movie on any home-release platform that would take it, I’m going to assume[…]that Sony pockets 60 percent of that sum instead of the customary 70 percent.
The total budget for The Interview appears to be around the $74 million mark, with production costing $42-44 million and marketing coming in at $30 million. Indeed, Sony may have saved quite a bit of cash on marketing, as the media attention surrounding the film's release provided quite a bit of free publicity.
When experts saw the initial success of The Interview's VOD release, some suggested it could be a game changer and usher in a new period where major blockbusters would also receive simultaneously home releases. Corcoran doesn't see it this way, although it should be noted that as the vice-president of The National Association of Theater Owners, this is hardly surprising. It is fairly clearly in the interests of his group that traditional theater releases remain the main source of income for movie studios. Perhaps this explains his eagerness to downplay the potential success of VOD.
However, until official figures are released, we will not know exactly how well The Interview performed. Many of the VOD figures we've seen did not include iTunes sales - which may be significant - while Sony also takes a bigger cut from VOD sales than traditional theater ticket sales.
Meanwhile, Gregory Wakeman of Cinema Blend suggests that Sony will probably still be happy with the performance of The Interview, since many in the studio may have written the film off as an absolute failure. He concludes, ”Sony is probably happy to have made any amount at all from The Interview."
What did you think of The Interview?