"The Interview," the comedy that Sony Pictures temporarily pulled from theaters, is doing well enough from online sales and rentals to recoup the millions of dollars spent on the film, a person close to the studio said.
Most of the $36 million in sales through Jan. 6 have come online. The studio, part of Tokyo-based Sony Corp., keeps 70% to 80% of those purchases, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private financial data.
"The Interview" also is being released in cinemas internationally. Plans are under way for a DVD and subscription streaming, CEO Michael Lynton said. The online release isn't a model for the future, he said, labeling it "an exception." Fans packing the few cinemas that showed the film reaffirmed Mr. Lynton's confidence in the current theatrical model, where a movie opens on the big screen and then goes to home video.
"The theaters that did carry the picture were completely full even though people could have gotten it at home," Mr. Lynton said. "It's a comedy, and people wanted to watch it together."
Sony charged a low price of $5.99 for the pay-per-view and $14.99 for purchase.
"It became a first amendment issue," he said. "It didn't feel appropriate to gouge the American public on price."
Analysts had estimated Sony spent $80 million making and marketing "The Interview," a farcical Seth Rogen comedy about a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That included $44 million in production costs, according to e-mails released by hackers who attacked the company's computers.
After Sony concluded "The Interview" wouldn't get a full theatrical release, the Culver City, California-based studio cut its spending on marketing, according to the person. That reduced the total cost to about $60 million, the person said.
The studio released "The Interview" in 331 theaters on Christmas Day, and expanded to more than 580 on Jan. 2. The largest chains pulled the picture from their schedules after threats of violence from hackers.
Sony Pictures cobbled together an unconventional alliance of partners, including Google and Microsoft. Google was the first company to offer the film -- for purchase and rental via its Play store and YouTube on Dec. 24.
"Google was the only one who felt good enough about their security to do so," Lynton said. "Everyone was worried about getting hacked."
~ Bloomberg News ~