Will 'The Interview' VOD Success Change Film Distribution Game?

December 29, 2014

The Interview

The Christmas box office weekend is over, and now it's time to see just how the combined limited theatrical release and fast VOD debut of the unnecessarily controversial comedy The Interview fared. There have been plenty of numbskulls who believe that this whole scenario was somehow a publicity stunt by Sony Pictures to make more money off the film, but we're not even going to get into why that's absolutely moronic. But now the official numbers are in, and in theaters, the film rounded up about $2.8 million. But the real news is The Interview raked in $15 million from their VOD release that began Christmas Eve.

The online haul will even be slightly bigger since The Interview only just became available on Apple's iTunes store on Sunday. It's undoubtedly the biggest digital release for Sony, but could this be a potential game changer for the industry that hasn't yet embraced the idea of releasing films on VOD and in theaters simultaneously? Well, yes and no, but the problem is that this isn't exactly the best scenario to use when considering a change in the distribution model of movies, and it's going to take some time for an overhaul.

First of all, while The Interview has an impressive pull in online sales, it's important to note that the hype around the film was unusual to say the least. Due to all the articles being written about the terrorist threats, the film being pulled from theaters, and so on, there was endless free publicity for the film in the couple weeks leading up to the film's eventual (though smaller) release. Therefore, using the film's performance as evidence that films being released on VOD will perform well alongside a theatrical release isn't entirely fair. Plus, your average VOD release wouldn't hit as many platforms as The Interview, so it's hard to gauge how the film would have fared as just another VOD title.

On the other side of the fence, some point to the solid performance of the film on VOD as a negative. Theater owners especially are using the numbers as evidence that releasing a film on VOD day-and-date with the film's theatrical debut will actually hurt the movie's box office. Of course, $2.8 million isn't a record-breaking number, but considering that the movie opened on less than 10% of the number of screens it would have in a wide release (the independent theaters also have more limited seating), and during one of the most crowded, family-oriented weekends of the year, that's not really a viable argument either.

In fact, Sony Pictures was projecting a $20 million box office weekend when their wide release was still planned, and they actually managed to almost reach that prediction with their VOD and limited theatrical engagement. Therefore, the use of VOD can obviously be beneficial to studios, especially with films that have limited theatrical reach, but making audiences aware of those films on the same level as The Interview would not be as easy. This unique release of The Interview will certainly be analyzed for awhile, but we'll have to wait and see how the industry reacts and if any real changes occur in distribution. Thoughts?

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Reader Feedback - 13 Comments


The movie had the benefits of the Streisand Effect, I doubt other movies will be as effective.

Dan Hibiki on Dec 29, 2014


Keep in mind the Sony will get to keep MOST of the 20 million grossed by VOD compared to having to split the 20 million right down the middle were it released theatrically.

Zack Snyder on Dec 29, 2014


true but they had 100 mil in cost after prod+marketing..making 20mil at this point without a wide theatrical release is peanuts. This VOD model makes no sense for high budget movies at this point and will stay relegated as a revenue channel for the smaller movies

desispeed on Dec 29, 2014


It would be nice if some of the 'independent' movies that are 'limited release' saw VOD sooner. Even living outside DC, I have a heck of a time finding a theater that shows many of the smaller or indie films (the recent "Love Is Strange" is a good one; same for this year's earlier entry "Belle").

VAharleywitch on Dec 29, 2014


This is a one shot deal and the VOD's will start declining rapidily as soon as the bad word of mouth gets around and the rah rah rah USA nonsense subsides as soon as these so-called patriots realize that it's more than likely North Korea and their insane dictator were not behind the hacking! My own daughter, shame on her, and her husband rented it for 5 bucks or whatever it was because she was curious about what the fuss was about. She couldn't watch it past a few minutes and got up and did the laundry. Thank the gods! She said it was just embarrassingly horrible..served her right! So many households who might have went out to the movies for this thing saved mucho dollars by them all watching it together on the cheap. Sony did what they could to get as much as they could without taking a total bath on this thing. And remember...what with all the nasty emails that were revealed from this hacking thing Sony took a very big and a very nasty PR hit on this whole debacle. No major corporation would do such a thing on their own for marketing purposes. As Ethan wrote, that's just moronic. People who buy into that are probably the same dummies who rented it on daughter excluded, of

Bo on Dec 29, 2014


I feel like comedy is subjective so calling people morons for liking it is moronic in itself. My wife and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but we have liked nearly all of Seth Rogen's films of the past 5 years. You don't need to belittle other people to have an opinion about a film. Just state the specific issues you had with it and then we can have a discussion.

MattPeloquin on Dec 29, 2014


Interesting, Matt. Sorry to hear you and your wife like such moronic movies as this and the other stuff Rogen puts out, but I've no problematic reactions to knowing that. However, it might be in your best interest of address your reactions to my opinions rather than try to control me and what I say because you don't like the reactions that you're having because of it. Are you able to follow what I'm saying? In my experience, my reactions are the only thing I can address and/or change. Not other people. I've no control over other people and it's rather moronic to tell other people what they should do because I'm too lazy to do the only thing I can do...which is to change myself and let others have the freedom to be who and what they want. George Carlin is known to have said, 'Think about how stupid the average person is; now think about that half of them are even stupider than that'. Pretty funny. You have a problem with George saying that? I sure don't! What I say is not important. What is important is your reactions to what I say. To blame me for your reactions is rather, well, moronic! I'm just some moron yammering his moronic opinions. Why the hell would you have a problem with that? If you do, you might think about taking responsibility for what you're thinking and feeling. I don't have that kind of power over you, even though you seem to want to give it to me. I don't want it, man. You're on you own, so man up and deal with your feelings and reactions. They're all taking place inside your own head. Righto cheerio?

Bo on Dec 29, 2014


My reaction is that you're a moron, Bo. Please don't think this is important enough that it's worth your time to reply. Just know that you're a moron. I'm sorry that I can't change this. How about it might be in your best interest to address your reactions to his reactions to your opinions rather than try to control his reactions to the stupid things you say. Regarding the money made, the 2.8 mill from theatres + 15 mill from VOD sounds a lot worse than a straight up 17.8 mill from theatres. Maybe they will get to keep a lot more of that 15 mill, but now that it's so widely spread, the VOD revenue won't go much higher than that, if at all.

Win on Dec 29, 2014


Very true 🙂

Hugo on Dec 30, 2014

10 that I've stopped laughing at your tirade of a 5 yr. old playing in the sandbox...I mean, really. Come on, Win. Who cares what your reaction is? I'm sure you are able to ascertain that I certainly do not! The worse part of your tirade is that you're reacting to something I said to someone else and it's really NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! Right? However, reading this interaction between myself and SOMEONE ELSE other than you caused what seems to be some very uncomfortable feelings inside of YOU and placing the blame on me for your feelings you just had to reply to me and call me a moron in order to feel better about yourself. Did it work, Win? It won't last long, even if it did, I can promise you that. Perhaps you should re-read what I said to Matt as it now applies to you. I know you didn't like it, but perhaps that's because it rang true for you deep down inside, and you didn't like that, did you? Of course, I'm not a moron, Win. In fact, just the opposite! Even if you call me one like a 5 yr. old on the playground it just doesn't make it so, Win. That's all inside your head and has nothing to do with me, so it has no effect on me. And of course, you are not sorry that you can't change that about me so that's a bit dishonest too...isn't it? The truth of the matter is that you can change that about me, Win. Only you have to make the change inside of yourself, which most people are afraid to do. Just stop thinking of me as a moron and ask yourself what it is about yourself that has that need to call me names. Can you do that, Win? Or is it easier to stay where you are interjecting yourself into conversations that were none of your business in the first place? I disagree with you that the things that I say are stupid. Again, quite the contrary! So where does that leave us? What I'm talking about is very difficult for most people to deal with. It's called waking up and becoming aware and taking responsibility for yourself and what you think and what you feel as a result of what you're thinking. As a result you will stop blaming others for your thoughts and feelings. I ain't the demon here, Win. The demon is inside of you, yammering away at you and urging you to point the blame outwardly. Which everybody does and that's why there are wars and people killing one another day in and day out. Look, this is basis psyche 101 and if you thought it stupid before you still will so I'm probably wasting my time. But you did reply to me so that tells me there's something or some reason you wanted to have a dialogue with me. Whether you are aware of that or not is another matter. All this over what I consider a very low brow movie for the masses. So even these kinds of movies have a certain power in our culture and bring out all types of thoughts and feelings in people. So back to the matter at hand I agree totally with your last paragraph regarding the VOD, etc. That made a lot of sense. I do wish you well, Win, even if you won't believe that. I am not a moron nor a stupid person and what I'm talking about and saying to both you and Matt is very intense and fierce stuff regarding the human condition. I hope you can get beyond your initial anger and aggressive hostility and give it a bit more thought with a bit more clarity without the uncomfortable and cumbersome emotions. Up to you. Peace to you.

Bo on Dec 30, 2014


too long didn't read please write another essay about how much you don't care about other people's opinions, especially when they disagree with your opinions.

Win on Dec 30, 2014


I don't think this really changes anything, really. No other film will get this kind of exposure and hype.

DAVIDPD on Dec 29, 2014


SUCESS? How can this be a sucess when the film cost 40 US Millions to be made. Overall the films has always to have a major plataform as it is the cinema - and the rest will came after. But i believe its important a film screens in the cinema.

Hugo on Dec 30, 2014

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