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When Sony announced that they would be releasing Seth Rogen and Evan Golberg's The Interview in limited theaters and online simultaneously, everyone began to speculate how the experiment would work out. Would people want to watch the comedy online instead of on a big screen? Would it drive audiences away from theaters? Would the bottom line be hurt by the fact that multiple people could watch one VOD order? We're still waiting for the answers to a lot of those questions, but one thing now seems certain: releasing the film online resulted in a good deal of success.
According to Reuters, Sony Pictures has revealed that The Interview's first weekend available online has resulted in a gross of more than $15 million, with the film being purchased or rented more than 2 million times in the last few days. While this may not seem like a ton of money in a larger Hollywood business context, when you add in the $2.8 million the film made in theaters you get a total that is only just short of the $20 million the movie was prognosticated to make if it had it gotten a wide release on Christmas Day, as was originally planned, and the fifth most successful release of the week.
Of course, opening weekend isn't everything, and the source notes that the numbers for the film should grow. The Interview is still growing its release platform, as Apple just signed a deal today that will see the movie available for both rental and purchase on iTunes. Google Play and YouTube first started hosting the movie online this past Wednesday, Christmas Eve. While the film certainly wasn't released in ideal conditions, it does seem doable that Sony will be able to make back the movie's $44 million budget.
What will be interesting is to see how this could change how movies are released from here on out. There will always be a place for the big screen - and any true cinefile will pray that option never goes away - but the rise of VOD and sites like Netflix and Hulu have led to people being more inclined to sit on their sofa and watch a film, and we may soon see a day when ever major studio releases get simultaneous online and theatrical releases. The market is definitely changing, and the release of The Interview may prove to be an interesting turning point.
Written by Dan Sterline and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is The End), The Interview centers on Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rappaport (Rogen), a idiot celebrity journalist and his producer, who get the chance of a lifetime when they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a big fan and willing to sit down for an interview. As if this wasn't bizarre enough, the CIA eventually gets involved and assign Dave and Aaron the assignment of assassinating the fascist leader.