It started in late November, 2014, when a group calling themselves Guardians of Peace informed Sony Pictures Entertainment by way of a menacing red skeleton graphic that the company's internal information had been compromised. In the days and weeks that followed, news outlets gained access to a cache of information stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment, which contained everything from payroll records, to medical records, to embarrassing correspondence between Sony officials. According to communications for the Guardians of Peace, which eagerly claimed responsibility for both the initial hacking and the massive data release, only one thing could stop the tide of information, the cancellation of the upcoming film The Interview.
Over a month and a half since the attack began, The Interview has received simultaneous theatrical and video on demand releases. Aside from a final threat to commit mass acts of terrorism at theaters showing The Interview, which prompted the initial cancellation of the film's release, the so-called Guardians of Peace have been strangely silent. The FBI and the Obama Administration determined that the Guardians of Peace were backed by North Korean, despite the country's repeated denials of involvement.
Techno babble, geopolitics, and political posturing aside, people who follow the money of the film industry have one burning question they want answered: How much did Sony make off of The Interview?
The answer isn't as simple as you might think. For one thing, when Sony announced that The Interview would be simultaneously released to theaters and video on-demand outlets, almost all of the major theater chains refused to show the film. While many assumed the refusal was rooted in fears of terrorism and liability, the answer may be far more business oriented. According to The Hollywood Reporter, major theater chains such as AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment, and Cinemark have blanket policies against showing films with a simultaneous video on-demand release schedule.
If Sony Pictures Entertainment had been hoping that the controversy surrounding The Interview would make the major theater chains have a change of heart, they were deeply mistaken. Though the odd release of The Interview did provide an opportunity to evaluate the viability of a strict video on-demand release strategy for future films.
The National Association of Theater Owners estimates that Sony lost around $30 million on The Interview. National Association of Theater Owners vice president Patrick Corcoran had strong words for any other studio planning to follow Sony Pictures Entertainment's footsteps.
"In this simultaneous-release game, Sony is $30 million in the hole and almost out of cards. The only game changed here was just how much Sony left on the table."
Sony recently announced that The Interview will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD February 17, but Corcoran was skeptical about possible sales. After all, why would consumers buy a physical copy of a film they already own?