Funny or Die: "The Interview" could have revolutionized movie distribution... if it hadn't sucked
The most-talked about movie of last year didn't win any Oscars nor did it break any box office records. In fact, most critics and audiences didn't even think it was very good.
Nevertheless, the country couldn't stop talking about The Interview, the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as two journalists tasked with assassinating Kim Jung-Un. And it wasn't the film itself but the drama surrounding it that Americans couldn't stop talking about -- first when the film's distributor-parent Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a massive and embarrassing hack at the hands of attackers who demanded that the company pull the film from theaters, and later when the same group threatened to launch terrorist attacks at theaters that chose to show it.
The threats resulted in a very limited theatrical release in about three hundred theaters, which is one-tenth the usual distribution size for a film of The Interview's budget and star-power. The film was also released online the day before it landed in theaters, bringing in $40 million. But while that's a pretty enormous digital-only haul, it was barely enough to cover the film's budget and wasn't even close to enough to show studios that a film doesn't need a theatrical release to be a huge success. The Seth Rogen vehicle Neighbors, for example, which came out in theaters earlier that year, took home over $268 million. And the $40 million made by The Interview digitally was the same amount the Kristin Wiig comedy Bridesmaids pulled in on digital receipts, despite also seeing a wide and hugely successful theatrical release).
Does that mean the world simply isn't ready to give up on theaters and go full digital? Not necessarily. Because according to a couple guys who know comedy as well as anybody, the real reason The Interview failed to stun at the digital box office was that it simply wasn't very good.
"If that movie had been really fucking funny, and everyone had to watch it online, that might have been a bit more of a game changer,” Funny Or Die Creative Director Andrew Steele told Sarah Lacy at last week's PandoMonthly in San Francisco. "It would have scared the shit out of the theaters."
Steele and Funny Or Die CEO Dick Glover also weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Sony hack and in particular the leaked emails which made a number of the studio's producers sound like pretty awful people.
"Are you kidding me, that’s in every business," Steele said, saying that when it comes to running your mouth Hollywood is no different than banking, which is no different than Silicon Valley, and so on. "We are those people. This is Hollywood, this is banking. Everyone I talk to, everyone gossips."
Watch Glover and Steele discuss The Interview and the Sony hack in the video below:
[photo by Geoffrey Ellis]