In light of the the recent Sony hacking scandal, the James Franco and Seth Rogen film The Interview took a different turn, releasing in select theaters along with a Video On Demand (VOD) release. While The Interview was certainly not the first film to do this, because it was in the limelight, a debate arose of whether or not VOD release could trump over theatrical release. The combination of both a VOD and theatrical release may have seemed like a turning point in the way studios looked at VOD, but most insiders believe that this instance is not going to change anything.

The Interview is an isolated instance. Because of the threats against the film, and the publicity that came along with its scandal, people jumped at the opportunity to see the film, even if it was just out of curiosity as opposed to deep interest. That will not be the case with every film. And releasing a film on VOD is not attractive to theaters. Even with The Interview and its popularity, it did very well during its opening weekend but once expanded to cable VOD and iTunes, the box office numbers significantly dropped.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, when The Interview opened on Christmas day in 331 theaters it took in $2.9 million in the first four days. Digital earnings from Sony’s website, Google Play, Xbox video and Youtube made $15 million in one weekend, and up to $31 million as of January 4th. When the film was added to iTunes, cable and satellite, Sony also upped its theater count, but the box office numbers dropped 40 percent to $1.1 million, and will most likely top out at $7 million. Even with the VOD money streaming in, that comes nowhere near the $44 million Sony spent to make the film, plus the likely $40 million to market it. Analysts believe this has to do with the dual strategy. Theatrical box office drops once VOD is added to the mix. And most major theater chains already refuse to play movies simultaneously with a streaming system. Mike Hickey of The Benchmark Co. told THR:
"It seems like a one-off to me. I don’t think it’s economically feasible for studios to pursue that dual strategy."

And I tend to agree. Because not only do the studios probably make more at the box office because of ticket costs, but also, by not having the film streaming online yet, there is less chance of illegal pirating (which is just more loss of money). We already know now that less people are going to the theaters, in 2014 it was the lowest attendance in 20 years, so if studios try this dual strategy, that attendance will only go down further. Whether it be laziness or convenience, given the choice to watch a movie at home the same day it releases in theaters, many people are going to chose staying in on the couch. Not all of us, but if the numbers are already on the decline, I can’t imagine that option increasing overall attendance at theaters.

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