Movie Chains Cower to Terrorism as Video-on-Demand (VOD) Rises

(Above, you can see an image from Austin-based Facebook user Tim Young. Young, an outspoken Republican, is an example of the bipartisan – or rather apolitical – civil rights response to the hacker threats said by the FBI to come from North Korea.)

Okay, no one has gotten hurt, so now let’s talk about the money.

This article looks at how Sony Pictures pushed back against its hackers by releasing The Interview online over the holiday weekend. Here is how we will proceed:

  • Big Numbers Voting for Freedom
  • Is Free Speech Lucrative?
  • Movie Chains Cower to Terrorism as Video-On-Demand (VOD) Rises
  • Public Cloud: Our Hero
  • Hack Defense as a Service
  • Let’s Get Ready to Buy

Big Numbers Voting for Freedom

Sony Pictures reports that online sales of The Interview reached $15 million through Saturday, December 27, after its release on Christmas Eve. That number was boosted a bit by the $2.8 million made in independent movie theaters starting Christmas Day. The reason the movie fared so well even though it primarily went “straight to video” is a combination of two basic factors:

  • Independent movie theaters – such as the Alamo Drafthouse (an independent Texas dinner-cinema chain) – standing up and agreeing to show the movie when big chains were running away.
  • The big dogs of technology came to Sony’s side. Well, at least two of them did: Microsoft and Google. It’s unclear if Apple wasn’t invited to the original picnic, but they are coming by now for latecomers with iPhones and iPads (below).

Boosted by the publicity of the Sony hack and terrorist threats from the attackers to movie theaters that decide to show it, The Interview scored big points with movie buffs and those generally concerned with personal liberty.

The ridiculous and lewd comedy film – centered on the assassination of North Korea’s propaganda-wielding, anti-human-rights dictator Kim Jong-un – is close to its projection if it had been released broadly in nationwide theaters.

Sony Pictures announced Sunday that The Interview had been either rented or bought outright in digital form over 2 million times in its first four days.That already makes it the best-selling online film the studio has ever released (not really surprising given the controversy).

Is Free Speech Lucrative?

Hell yes it is. Jeff Bock, who does box office analysis for Exhibitor Relations, said that the level of sales was outstanding: “This is almost what it was going to do theatrically before it was pulled. It made about what people expected, but in a completely different way.”

The movie, believed to be the reason behind the Sony hack in November, opened in 331 independent theaters (many of which were pieces of small chains, as in the case of the Alamo) on Christmas Day, generating $1 million on opening night and another $1.8 million on Friday and Saturday.

The movie, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, was forecast at to gross $20 million if it had been released cinematically nationwide as originally planned.

Movie Chains Cower to Terrorism as Video-On-Demand (VOD) Rises

Following lame cancellations by the-terrorists-have-already-won corporate schmucks, including Regal Entertainment and AMC (neither of which are invited to my birthday party), Sony withdrew the release temporarily.

After being lambasted by Obama and perhaps doing some late-night soul-searching in a huge high-rise office with too many windows and not enough mirrors, Sony found its cojones in the wreckage of the attack. They coordinated with Obama to have them reattached by the Surgeon General.

Finally, the studio released the picture for $6 through video-on-demand (that’s cloud or “Internet movies,” as the kids call it) through the Google (Google Play and YouTube Movies) and Microsoft (Xbox Video) systems, as well as through the film’s website.There was also a $15 outright purchase option. Take that, you terrorist losers. We’re making some $$$$.

Both the President and big Hollywood names such as Judd Apatow (also not a fan of Bill Cosby sympathizers, 87% of whom are named Bill or Camille Cosby) came out hard against Sony for the decision. Sony said pulling the film was the only option– that its hand was forced.

The movie was expected to be a holiday blockbuster  for the studio, with between $30 and $40 million poured into advertising it, above and beyond the production costs, such as Franco and Rogen paychecks.

Apple has even popped its head up from a foxhole and scurried across the battlefield, yelling that The Interview is now available through iTunes. Paul Dergarabedian, who tracks and analyzes media for Rentrak, noted, “The Apple component will be significant.”

To Be Continued

The Interview serves as an example of how Americans respond to freedom of speech threats.

It also serves as a pilot project for the distribution of a movie at theaters and through VOD simultaneously, something that the big movie chains don’t like. Well, maybe by giving in to terrorist demands, those lame ducks just made themselves irrelevant.

Just as Sony Pictures released The Interview a day early through the cloud to keep itself relevant despite recent setbacks, you can stay relevant with cloud projects as well. Spin up a cloud test environment today.

By Kent Roberts

Part 2 of this two-part story can be read here.