'The Interview' and Video-on-Demand: The Exploration of Innovative Film Distribution and Exhibition in a Studio-Dominated Landscape
The video-on-demand marketplace in film has usually been reserved for independent distributors like Magnolia Pictures and IFC Films, who cannot secure widespread theatrical exhibition like the major studios do (which include Sony, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Disney, amongst other), therefore opting for the in-home launch of films through on-demand services. These include cable providers, iTunes, Google Play, and even Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. A drastic change to this model came with the launch of The Interview exclusively on VOD platforms and in independent cinemas, challenging the established norm in the industry of major studios releasing their films with major exhibitors like AMC and Regal. Sony's controversial film provided a breakthrough in the VOD marketplace as it became the highest-grossing film ever released on the platform. There remains mystery and secrecy in the VOD realm, though, as independent distributors fail to provide accountable data on their releases and rarely measure financial successes in public. Whereas theatrical box office are available every weekend, VOD numbers do not have to be disclosed at any time, further driving ambiguity behind just how successful the technology must be when the films are often low-key, character-driven efforts rather than the blockbusters that pervade the theatrical landscape around the world. This paper explores the ramifications of video-on-demand on the theatrical marketplace, and attempts to counter the recent claim of The Interview being the game-changing success for VOD.