Sony reveals The Interview is its top grossing online film with US$31m revenues so far

7 Jan 2015

Controversial spy spoof movie The Interview has netted US$31m in online sales so far, just weeks after it had been pulled from cinemas in the US.

Sony has described The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, as its No 1 online film of all time.

So far the movie, which is at the centre of hacking allegations emanating from North Korea, has netted US$5m in offline sales.

The US had blamed North Korea for the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment which shut down the company’s computer network, saw some 47,000 personnel files leaked online, as well as compromising private emails and five new movies, including Fury and Annie.

However, in recent weeks, evidence has surfaced that the attacks by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace, may have involved the collusion of a former Sony employee who had an understanding of the internal workings of Sony’s IT network.

In the US, fears caused by the hacking and threats of further reprisals saw movie theatre chains such as AMC and Regal give the movie the cold shoulder.

Publish and be damned … lucky

Instead, after initially cancelling the movie’s release, Sony decided instead to release the movie on a number of online platforms, including YouTube, iTunes, Xbox Video and Google Play for US$6 to rent and US$15 to own.

The movie is to be released officially in UK cinemas this February.

If anything, the experience is an interesting one for Sony and Hollywood overall in terms of first-run rates of new movie releases online after some 4.3m individual downloads.

Then again, you can’t buy the kind of publicity or notoriety that The Interview has attracted.

The question now is whether The Interview will break even for Sony, considering it cost US$44m to make and had a marketing budget of US$35m. Time will tell.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years