Critics Don’t Love The Interview But Pirates Do

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Critics are still divided as to whether Seth Rogen and James Franco’s The Interview is a good movie, but at least one group is absolutely loving it: pirates. According to a recent report by Torrent Freak the film may have been illegally downloaded as many 750,000 times in its first day of digital availability. While the film is being released in select independent theaters, no national chains have agreed to show the controversial comedy. That means that filmmakers and Sony will be depending on paid digital downloads, currently priced at $5.99, to recoup the reported $80 million they spent making the film. Piracy will obviously take a big bite out of the film’s potential earnings

The Interview is easily the most famous movie of the year. Scenes depicting the murder of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un are believed to be the trigger for the unprecedented cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment which has humiliated senior management and cost the company millions in recent weeks. The hack, combined with reported threats of terror attacks targeting movie theaters, prompted Sony to pull the film late last week. The company later flip-flopped, agreeing to release The Interview on digital platforms like YouTube and Google Play and ironically XBox Live. Although final numbers aren’t yet available the film is at the top of the YouTube and Google Play charts, indicating that first day sales have been healthy, but it’s unclear how that will last as pirated copies become widely available.

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Piracy has been one of the biggest boogiemen scaring studios off of digital release for their films, and many have been looking to The Interview to act as a test case. Claims of over 200,000 copies lost to piracy in the first day will certainly not help the cause. However, the blame lies mostly with Sony’s indecisive approach to the film. After hesitating about its release for almost two weeks Sony struck a last minute deal with Google and XBox to make the film available to consumers. However that deal only applied to viewers in the US. Presently, there is still no option for international downloads, a wasted opportunity given that most big budget films earn more overseas than they do at home. That also means that anyone outside the United States who wants to see the film has few options other than turning to piracy.

Oscar nominations are coming up, but no matter who gets a nod from the Academy it should be clear that The Interview will be the most important move of 2014. Not only did its release inadvertently give us a look inside the inner workings of Hollywood, but its digital release is likely to shape all future releases of its kind. Whether studios will begin to develop more complete digital release plans or whether they will cave to fears of piracy remains to be seen, but its clear that The Interview will serve as a textbook case of what not to do.

 

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