After a very public admonition by President Barack Obama, Sony Pictures released The Interview to Google Play, YouTube, the PlayStation and Xbox stores and now iTunes, to say nothing of over 300 independent theaters across the United States in time for Christmas. Despite the risks and the technical challenges involved, Sony did it. It made good on its word. Now that we're past the big holiday weekend, though, let's take a moment to step back and look at The Interview's aftermath as it stands.
Naturally, representatives for the North Korean regime were none too pleased with the release, and the redaction of the movie's more tawdry bits weren't enough to keep them from blowing a gasket. Here's hoping that version gets pressed onto DVDs soon, if only so this guy can send them above the 38th parallel as part of some subversive care packages. North Korea's National Defense Commission called The Interview "dishonest and reactionary," and said that the act of releasing the movie was in essence "agitating terrorism." Class acts that they are, they also likened the president to a monkey in a jungle prone to recklessness "in words and deeds." For now, North Korean officials haven't promised retaliation for The Interview's release or the ongoing internet and cellular service outages in the country, though The New York Times points out that North Korea thinks the US is just a big ol' bully.
The Guardians of Peace
All's quiet on the western front. The Guardians of Peace -- the hacker(s) behind the Sony Pictures hack thought to be connected to North Korea -- have been uncharacteristically tame after promising very bad things should the movie make it into theaters. That just might be because North Korea wasn't involved at all, despite what the FBI claimed in a press bulletin issued just before the holidays.
CloudFlare Principal Security Researcher (and DEF CON security chief) Marc Rogers noted in a piece on The Daily Beast that it's way more likely a disgruntled employee was behind the attack. Meanwhile, Kurt Stammberger, an exec at security firm Norse, suspects the Guardians Of Peace's "Lena" was a 10-year Sony insider before leaving the company in May. The only peeps we've heard from the Guardians have been a series of jabs and deflections meant to make it clear that the FBI was on the wrong trail. Is it possible that they're throwing law enforcement a bone, letting them know that the attack's roots could be found within America's borders? Maybe. Is it more likely that they're just trolling the hell out of everyone by now? You bet. At this point, it's not clear how much more information the GoP has left to dump, though we half-expect them to have saved some of the juiciest, most damning stuff for last. Stay tuned.
So far, The Interview has grossed north of $15 million with the vast majority coming from streaming rentals and online sales. If this momentum keeps up, it won't be long at all before the movie recoups the $44 million (according to insider estimates) that went into making it, though that's not an insignificant "if" right now. TorrentFreak notes that there was huge interest in pirated copies of the movie within the first two days of its release -- even meeting demand levels set by blockbuster flicks -- but things are now starting to slow considerably. Digital releases only make the risk of piracy even more of a possibility, but the precedent set by The Interview is a shot in the arm for the notion of online distribution, which more than ever looks like an escape hatch for studios working on medium-budget movies that probably wouldn't take off at the box office.
Of course, there were a lot of intangible factors at play here too. Remember: Sony paid about $30 million to promote the film, and in the end, the stuff that really made people want to see it had barely anything to do with marketing budgets. The jury's still out on whether it makes financial sense for studios to push new movies straight into our consoles and our YouTubes, but you can bet the patriotic prospect of shafting Kim Jong Un made it even easier for people to open their wallets. Long after the giggling over the word "honeydick" has subsided, people who watched The Interview will remember the event as a statement.