It may not be the best film of 2014, but Sony’s The Interview – starring Seth Rogen and James Franco – is probably the most talked about.
After much will-they-won’t-they-oh-yes-of-course-they-will, Sony decided to ignore threats of reprisals and release the controversial comedy on Christmas Day – in about 300 independent US cinemas and on VoD in the US and Canada only.
(For those who came in late, The Interview is a comedy that tells the story of two American men who go to North Korea and assassinate leader Kim Jong-Un. The film allegedly led to a massive cyberattack Sony Pictures last month, and Sony was also threatened with “9/11-style attacks on cinemas” if it released the film.)
Today, Sony said that The Interview made $15 million from online sales and rentals since its release, as well as $2.8 million in theatres over the Christmas weekend.
So well done Sony for making a little bit of money from a film that, just over a week ago, you said you were not going to release at all.
But the question remains: why did Sony not want to make a LOT of money from the release of a film that had been getting so much free publicity? And, according to the reviews, is just an average comedy?
Sony made a couple of big mistakes: geolocking The Interview to North America only, and not putting any DRM on the actual video files.
The film was made available to rent for $5.99 (£3.85) from Sony’s new VoD site SeeTheInterview.com, but you need to access the site from a US or Canadian IP address and pay with a US or Canadian debit or credit card to be able to watch the stream.
But it appears that Sony failed to apply any DRM software to the site, making it very easy to simply download the file – which a lot of people did, and within a few hours The Interview was being pirated across the globe.
According to various reports, The Interview has now been pirated more than two million times.
So if Sony had made the film legally available online globally, instead of just in North America, it could potentially have made another $12 million – rather than just giving it away, which is what effectively happened.
Sony was approached for comment, but had not returned our request prior to publication.
One of these days, the people who run Hollywood studios might actually get their heads around just how the internet works…