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Hoe het toch nog goed afliep met The Interview

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Eerst wilde Sony de gehackte film The Interview helemaal niet meer uitbrengen vanwege bedreigingen aan het adres van bioscopen. Daarna toch wel, maar alleen in kleine bioscopen en online. En nu blijkt dat The Interview break-even zal draaien, verwacht Sony. Geen financiële strop dus.

“The Interview,” the comedy that Sony Pictures (6758) 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. (SNE), keeps 70 percent to 80 percent of those purchases, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private financial data.

Also released internationally

“The Interview” also is being released in cinemas internationally. Plans are under way for a DVD and subscription streaming, Chief Executive Officer Michael Lynton said in an interview. 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 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,” Lynton said. “It’s a comedy, and people wanted to watch it together.”

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.

First Amendment

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.”

Sony American depositary receipts fell 1 percent to $21.34 at the close in New York. They rose 18 percent in 2014.

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.

Unconventional alliance

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 Inc. (GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. Google was the first company to offer to host the film, according to Lynton. The companies began offering the movie for online purchase and rental 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.”

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