In a development that looks set to exacerbate simmering unrest between Sony Pictures and the major exhibitors, the studio has moved ahead with an online platform release for the controversial comedy.
The development effectively creates a day-and-date strategy that the major exhibitors are unlikely to view favourably given their long-held skepticism of a distribution model they regard ultimately as a threat to the theatrical community.
The Interview launches in approximately 300 independent theatres on December 25 and will now be made available on the morning of December 24 on a number of streaming platforms in the US.
The public can watch it on platforms such as YouTube Movies, Google Play, Xbox Video and a dedicated website called Seetheinterview where the price point is $5.99 for rental. Viewers can also purchase the comedy in HD at a cost of $14.99.
The major chains are likely to take a dim view of events, especially after they felt slighted last week when Sony Pictures top brass said they were pulling out of the wide December 25 theatrical release because their exhibition partners had cancelled bookings.
The major theatre owners have disputed this depiction of events, insisting they asked to delay or modify the release but not cancel it.
“It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” Sony Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said in a statement released on December 24.
“With that in mind, we reached out to Google, Microsoft and other partners last Wednesday, December 17th, when it became clear our initial release plans were not possible. We are pleased we can now join with our partners to offer the film nation-wide today.
“We never stopped pursuing as wide a release as possible for The Interview. It was essential for our studio to release this movie, especially given the assault upon our business and our employees by those who wanted to stop free speech. We chose the path of digital distribution first so as to reach as many people as possible on opening day, and we continue to seek other partners and platforms to further expand the release.”
The statement flies in the face of one the studio issued on December 17 after initially pulling the film. On that occasion a spokesperon said, “Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film.”