The debate over simultaneous releases both in cinemas and via video-on-demand (VOD) services has taken an interesting turn with reports this morning that last week’s release of the controversial Seth Rogen and James Franco-led comedy “The Interview” earned $15 million online through Saturday.
The film has been rented or downloaded over two million times since hitting the Internet on Wednesday Sony disclosed, and has scored a further $3 million from its limited 331 screen theatrical rollout. That brings the total to something not that far off the $20 million or so estimates that were being suggested had the film’s opening weekend followed its original plan to open on 3,000 screens on Christmas Day.
This comes even as the film’s release was restricted to only a few key VOD services including YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox and a dedicated site rather than the more well-known streaming services like iTunes, Amazon or through cable providers. iTunes began offering the film on Sunday, but those numbers aren’t in yet.
Of course how much all the free publicity for the film impacted the sales is anyone’s guess and renders this not exactly a representative example of what other films can expect if they follow the same path. Still, a sweetener to the deal is that VOD deals reportedly offer a bigger cut on every dollar for the studio than theatrical exhibition does.
After four days the film ranks as Sony’s highest-grossing online release of all time and outpaces recent VOD successes such as “Snowpiercer,” “Arbitrage” and “Bachelorette”. It’s also one of the few times VOD sales and rentals figures for a film have been released as they are usually kept fairly secret.
Speaking of the film, an Ohio man has earned some laughter at his expense when he revealed he purchased $650 in tickets (50 passes at $13 each) through movietickets.com from a local cinema. He also admits to Variety he aimed to resell the tickets online at a higher price (i.e. he was going to scalp them).
The plan backfired once Sony announced it was streaming the film online for half the price. Now he is demanding a refund from the cinema, but they won’t provide it because the film is listed as a special event and thus the theater owners reserve the right to withhold refunds. On top of that, scalping tickets is illegal.