If “The Interview” never makes it into theaters, and that’s certainly looking like the case, one option for Sony is to release the film via video-on-demand. That’s where consumers pay to watch movies at home through their cable and satellite TV systems or through streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube.
We spoke with John Sloss — the chief of Cinetic Media and an attorney who has been an early advocate for video-on-demand release — and asked what would be the benefits and liabilities if Sony used that platform for "The Interview."
Indie films are usually the ones to use VOD as opposed to big studio features such as "The Interview?"
Yes, because most of the exhibitors are not pleased that films will be offered through VOD, so the large theater chains resisted that. They're sticking to traditional windowing so that's sort of left this to the independents.
Meaning that if a theater sees a film available on a cable system, they're not going to book it. They want to have a couple of months of that movie to themselves.
Mostly three months.
Has there been a movie as big as "The Interview" on Video on Demand.
To my knowledge there has not. Not even close.
What are Sony's benefits and liabilities on releasing "The Interview" on VOD?
There are tremendous benefits in situations where maybe you haven't expended so much [on marketing], but that is about awareness. And the awareness of this film is about as high as it can be for a film before release ... brought by the hacking scandal. So the notion that iTunes, which is available to everyone with a computer or Apple TV, could [offer] this film that is a huge curiosity for everyone, I think would lead to a [larger] buying spree than if it were released initially on VOD.
The obvious advantage of VOD is people can watch this film in the comfort of their living room. Would Sony end up making anywhere close to [revenue for] a theatrical release?
It's purely speculative, but I don't see why not. It would be a huge boom for transactional VOD because it would probably make some people who have never consumed VOD venture into that. It's sort of a habit thing. So once that happens, I think it would really help the growth of VOD across the board.
If Sony were to call you and ask what you think, what would your advice to the studio be?
My advice to the studio would be to either release the film in theaters this weekend — a week early — and not tell anyone. Or put it on transactional VOD and take the public relations win, take the pressure off of the theater owners and actually make a nice chunk of change. I think it feels like a win-win.