Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Interview: So After All That, Who Won?

Taking It Back
First off, this is not a review of "The Interview" starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. I haven't seen it yet. But, you've no doubt followed along in what has to be the most bizarre movie opening ever. If you lived under a rock and missed it, here's a recap. Set to open on Christmas Day, the movie was pulled back and rumored to never be released at all amid Sony's cyber attack and threats of violence on movie theaters that showed the movie. Sony suddenly found themselves criticized for allowing North Korea to dictate a movie's opening...including comments from President Obama. Next thing you know, on Christmas Eve, Sony relents and decides to release it on Christmas after all. It opened in theaters that decided to show it, as well as online.
The results after the first weekend were $2.8 million in the theater (now at $4.8 million in limited theaters)...and $15 million in online sales. It became the most downloaded over-the-top movie ever with 2 million downloads over the first 4 day weekend, Dec. 25-28 (read more here). Sales were close to the $20 million projected if it had a wide release to all theaters as originally planned. In the aftermath, there's now speculation that North Korea may not have been responsible for the Sony cyberattack after all. It may have been Russian speakers. Further rumors have accused the entire thing of being an elaborate marketing stunt by Sony. 

Given all of the hype, drama and success, who were the winners here? Let's take a look at the players:

  • Sony: It's too early to say whether they'll win out eventually. While the first weekend was successful, I've seen original overall projections as high as $120 million. I'm not sure they make that much. If it turns out to be an actually good movie (I've heard mixed reviews), it might. Or, it might fizzle out after the initial excitement and hype.

    As for rumors of this being all publicity, I don't think so. There's too much money at risk. Plus, there had been threats from North Korea for months about releasing the movie. I was actually surprised no one took any of it seriously until the last minute. This also does nothing but damage the U.S.'s relationship with North Korea.

  • North Korea: Almost, but nope. Whether they were responsible for the Sony cyber attack or not, they were taken seriously for a few minutes there. In the end though, Sony went ahead with the release and there was no violence. Was Kim Jong Un really going to waste the money and energy for a Seth Rogen/James Franco movie? Hard to say, but he's unstable enough to say "maybe".

  • The American Government: No. They stood up for not backing down to threats, but they were defending a Seth Rogen/James Franco movie. Not much to be gained and not surprised they didn't come out too strongly. Although, they could have nipped this in the bud months ago before all of the drama.

  • Online Movie Ordering: With the 2 million downloads, "The Interview" is now considered a test case for simultaneous video on demand and theatrical release. I think this may be too much of an anomaly. While it may have gotten people to try online ordering that hadn't before, the strange set of events leading up to it are likely the reason for the success. I don't see this success being replicated on a "regular" movie release. 

  • Us, the viewing public: Again, I can't say. I haven't seen it and the reviews I've seen have been mixed. You could say we won by having the option to see it at all. But, if it's a bad movie, what did we really win?

  • Seth Rogen and James Franco: I'm not sure they won as much as they didn't lose. Not sure all the hubbub was worth it though. 

The way I see it, there was only one clear winner: George Clooney. His statement (read more here) was widely shared and supported on social media. For once, most of us agreed with what he had to say and took the time to read it. Good for you, George! Don't make it a habit though. Most of us don't care about your views on just about anything.
Oh, and partial winners were Trey Parker and Matt Stone as "Team America: World Police" was set to be the replacement movie shown in a few theaters...until Paramount smacked that idea down. It was a great idea and a great movie. How that was released with none of this drama, I'll never know. Puppets must not offend the North Koreans as much. Or, maybe they just thought the movie was as funny as we did! If you haven't seen it (or even if you have), check it out. 

Do you agree with my take? Did you see the movie yet? Did you like it? Tell us in the comments below. Thanks for reading and please share it with your friends! Have a great 2015!

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