Less than a month after its Christmas Eve release, Sony’s controversial comedy The Interview has topped $40 million in online and on-demand sales.
The film, which drew the ire of North Korea and became the subject of threats from terrorist hackers, was rented or purchased by at-home viewers more than 5.8 million times between Dec. 24 and Jan. 18, Sony Pictures Entertainment said on Tuesday. “We always said that we would get the movie to the greatest audience possible,” Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said in a statement. “Achieving over $40 million in digital sales is a significant milestone.”
The film’s on-demand success is likely a huge relief for the studio, which cancelled the planned release of The Interview in mid-December after movie theater chains balked at showing the film over violent threats allegedly made by the very group of hackers that breached Sony Pictures’ computer system in November. However, Sony (SNE) is still far from recouping all of its potential losses for a film that cost $44 million to make and the studio is thought to have spent at least an additional $30 million to market the movie and stars Seth Rogen and James Franco.
So far, The Interview has pulled in roughly $6 million from a very limited theatrical release and it is unclear how much of the $40 million in streaming sales Sony Pictures will actually be able to pocket. The studio’s cut of those proceeds will depend on the nature of its agreements with its video-on-demand (VOD) distributors, including Google’s (GOOG) YouTube and Google Play platforms, as well as Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. The film was also made available on Sony’s Playstation Network and through Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox, as well as via on-demand services offered to Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (TWC), Verizon (VZ) FiOS, Dish Network (DISH) and DirecTV (DTV) customers, among others. Each of those partners will demand a share of sales.
The film’s streaming performance is being watched closely as the movie industry tries to determine the value in simultaneously releasing films in theaters and online over the industry’s standard process: a theatrical release typically followed months later by various VOD offerings. Last week, Patrick Corcoran — vice president of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) — predicted Sony could lose more than $30 million on The Interview. Corcoran also threw cold water on the idea that movie could be a game-changer for the movie industry.
“The only game changed here was just how much money Sony left on the table,” Corcoran said in NATO publication Box Office Magazine.