The Interview and a New Film Distribution Model

In Opinion

It’s a topic that has dominated the news agenda, over the last few weeks. From the huge leak of information, including private emails, accounts and other personal information to the diplomatic crisis and the war of words that ensued between the United States and North Korea.

The Interview and the hacking of Sony, and the subsequent terrorist threats which ultimately led to many major cinema chains refusing to screen the film, has culminated in an unusual situation. A major studio, simultaneously releasing a film in the cinemas (albeit a small handful) and via Video on Demand services.

It’s an event that could have massive implications for the future shape of film distribution, a future that sees the cinema by passed in favor of the direct to VOD release. Perhaps the question we should be asking is why this isn’t the norm already? Especially as services such as iTunes, Google Play, Youtube, and Netflix have become so widely available. The answer could lie behind the symbiotic relationship the studios and the cinema chains have forged in the last thirty years. It seems to make sense right. Wrong there have been countless films which have been considered flops, at the cinema which then go on to gross much more money after their home video release. Films such as Donny Darko, which cost $4.5million dollars to make grossed $7.7million worldwide in cinema takings, but then went on to take $10million after it’s home video release. While these are small figures in the world of the blockbusters and their multi-million dollar profits, it does show how powerful home release can be in pulling a ‘flop’ into the black.

“…it wasn’t surprising to discover as I write this that The Interview has made $15 million in digital downloads alone since it’s Christmas eve release.”


With this in mind it wasn’t surprising to discover as I write this that The Interview has made $15 million in digital downloads alone since it’s Christmas eve release. While yes this isn’t the vast sums of money taken by the likes of Avatar, Titanic, and the Harry Potter films. This should also be considered a limited release, as the film was only made available to users in the united states. That all said it’s an impressive figure.

So to summarize what is important when it comes to the release of The Interview, isn’t America’s perceived sense of free speech being upheld, or even the politics concerning the hacking of Sony. It is a turning point in the overall model of film distribution, and the overthrow of the existing Studio/Cinema chain system of releasing a film. With this precedent being set it’s more than likely that the next twelve months will see the simultaneous release of movies, both in the cinemas and online. Which ultimately could be the death knell for the traditional cinema experience. But also a boon for smaller independent studios, which will see this as the playing field being leveled in much the same way that iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp have done for music releasing.

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