Checking Back in With ‘The Interview’: How Did it Do?
When last we heard from The Interview, the controversial Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg comedy was made available to streaming services despite threats from the hacker group known as GOP. Claiming that any release would be followed by swift retribution, the hackers forced Sony to decide the movie would never see the light of day. But public outrage from both audiences and Hollywood eventually gave them a change of heart, with it even getting a release in theaters following its appearance on streaming. As of this weekend, we’ll be able to watch it on both Netflix and Crackle, putting the final nail in the coffin of this odd controversy.
So now that the fervor and rabble has died down, how did The Interview do? Was it even worth all this righteous anger over free speech, or was it simply a mindless comedy that made no difference in the world? With the critical tally in, it’s currently sitting at a middling-but-not-great 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, while just barely having made its $44 million budget back. IMDb estimates the movie brought in between $5-6 million at the box office, while CBS News reports that digital sales numbered up around $40 million, putting it right around the territory of the most lucrative such release ever.
All this brings us back to the question: Was it worth it? Sure, the movie itself wasn’t exactly Schindler’s List, but it’s hard to argue with a decision that in the end paid off for all involved. The threats from GOP turned out to be empty, as there we no reported incidents at theaters showing The Interview. Sony didn’t fall victim to another massive hack, and those who streamed it didn’t find themselves under attack in their homes.
For the studio, all this rounds out what’s been a bizarre saga of events in terms of getting this movie out into the world. Debates about allowing a foreign nation to dictate our freedom of speech cropped up over a film that was less a subversive parody of North Korean oppressiveness, and more a simple stoner comedy with a caricature of an easy-to-mock dictator. And that’s fine. Even the most low-brow of movies deserve the right to not be held from audiences at the behest of North Korean cyber-terrorists.
Its release certainly didn’t represent a heroic move from Sony, having only released The Interview following public outcries after folding like a house of cards at the first sign of trouble initially. For a brief period, it was a frightening look at just how little it takes for a foreign nation to shut down an American movie they don’t approve of. While we got our happy ending as well as our share of James Franco and Seth Rogen cracking wise together a la Pineapple Express, it all made for a controversy that really never should have occurred in the first place.
We may never know how well The Interview would have done had it gotten an actual wide release in theaters, but we can always take a shot at guessing. Rogen and Goldberg’s audience tends to faithfully see pretty much all of their releases; This is the End raked in $120 million worldwide as reported by IMDb, while Pineapple Express succeeded to the tune of $101 million, both considerable numbers for low-end comedies. It stands to reason The Interview could have eventually cracked that magic $100 million mark with a standard global release. Alas, we’ll never truly know for sure. What we do know is that freedom of speech won out in the end, and now we can finally close the book on this saga for good.