Is Sony sticking it to exhibitors big and small with this latest announcement regarding “The Interview“? That will be the debate, especially following Deadline‘s report yesterday that behind-the-scenes, “Sony was back c-hannel imploring them to cancel the film so that the studio wouldn’t have to be seen caving to terrorists.” (The studio has denied this). And now, they’ve changed the plan. As we know, the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy will be in limited release tomorrow, mostly in scattered smaller or independent chains and theaters around the country, but now it looks like anyone (at least in America) who wants to see the movie, will be able to with just a credit card and a click of the mouse.
CNN reports that Sony is working out a deal with YouTube for “The Interview” to be available for rental starting on Christmas Day. Moreover, this is not exclusive and other digital outlets may join in as well, however, deals aren’t yet closed for anybody involved just yet. But, this is massive news for more than a few reasons. Firstly, this is probably the first time in history that a major studio release has gone theatrical and VOD at the same. Granted, the circumstances are unprecedented and unlikely to be repeated, but moreover, one wonders how exhibitors are going to feel about this. It was just within the last couple of days they rallied and got Sony to release the money, and then made valuable Christmas Day screens available to show the movie. And now, any one of those customers can skip the whole process and price of going to the theater, and stay at home, fire up “The Interview” on YouTube, and watch it with as many people as they want.
The noise around this decision won’t end anytime. For the consumer, this is great and a window into what the future of non-event/non-blockbuster moviegoing will be like. However, for theater owners, it’s a dark portent of things to come, where audiences will have increasingly more options to stream and rent at home, rather than pay for pricey tickets and expensive snacks, find parking, and then hope that the audience around them isn’t rude or disruptive. And it probably doesn’t help owners to have news get out there that FBI agents will be visiting cinemas screening “The Interview” to advise them on the possibility of being hacked.
Update: The Interview will be available to rent and buy starting at 10 AM PST/1 PM EST starting today. Hit the official website for full details.
— Jason Gorber (@filmfest_ca) December 24, 2014