Mere days after pulling The Interview from theatrical release amid alleged threats from North Korea, Sony Pictures has reversed course and decided to go ahead with renewed release plans. But was the decision to pull the critically panned film from release actually a clever marketing ploy designed to avoid the losses that come with a commercial flop?
As reported on Gawker, the Sony hack leaks revealed major concerns amid Sony executives with The Interview. Sony Pictures exec Peter Taylor and Sony Pictures Releasing International President Steven O’Dell described the movie as a “misfire,” “unfunny and repetitive” and containing “a level of realistic violence that would be shocking in a horror movie” in a series of leaked emails.
Yet, as soon Sony decided to pull The Interview from theatrical release, everyone suddenly wanted to see it. As pointed out by the Daily Dot, outrage over Sony’s decision was widespread. Even President Obama got in on the act, saying Sony “made a mistake” by kowtowing to hackers’ threats and canceling The Interview’s release.
Now, according to the Los Angeles Times, with Sony’s decision to proceed with a Christmas Day release, The Interview is expected to pull in around $3 million to $4 million in just 331 theaters.
Watching The Interview over the holiday weekend has become something of a cause for freedom-loving Americans. Cliff Reston of Hollywood, California, highlighted this notion, saying he elected to watch the film in theaters mostly in reaction to the original decision to pull the film.
“It’s a basic issue of freedom of choice. This is a movie I probably would have watched on-demand in a year — it’s not a genre that rises to the top for me. But once it became a cause célèbre, it seemed worth doing.”
Of course, those looking to accuse Sony of nixing The Interview as a marketing ploy ignore one important piece of information: money. The $3 million to $4 million The Interview is expected to take in this weekend is far cry from original projections. Initial expectations for The Interview had it pulling in up to $25 million this weekend.
So, while it is certainly fun to point fingers at Sony — and Hollywood in general — and fling wild conspiracy theories, the harsh truth remains. Sony will take a beating on The Interview. Much of the original $44 million budget was essentially lit on fire amid the media firestorm, never to be seen again.
As silly as Hollywood can be at times, they don’t take multi-million dollar marketing chances on mediocre comedies. There’s just no money in it.