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5 Reasons Why Sony Should Still Release 'The Interview' Online

No theaters, no problem for this Seth Rogen and James Franco flick

The Seth Rogan and James Franco vehicle could defeat hackers and find an even bigger audience online.

While many people were expecting The Interview to be the goofball stoner comedy of the holiday season, it's turned into a headache for film executives as they struggle to stem the flow of hacked Sony information and terrorist threats against those who support the movie. Now, Buzzfeed Entertainment reports the film empire is pulling the movie from its scheduled Dec. 25 theatrical release due to terrorist threats. Sony could not immediately be reached for comment.

In late November, a hacker collective calling itself the Guardians of Peace began releasing private Sony documents and promised to wreak more havoc unless distributor Sony Pictures Entertainment complied with its demands, mostly centered around not releasing the Seth Rogen and James Franco film. Fingers began to point at North Korea as the source of the hacks, mostly because the movie centers around a Kim Jong-un assassination plot. The country and the FBI have denied the connection. (Apparently, the Guardians of Peace didn't have as much of an issue with Team America: World Police—although to be fair, that centered around Kim Jong-il.)

Variety reported that Guardians of Peace promise even more files will be released, including one named after Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. The group also hinted there may be attacks at The Interview screenings. On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter said five major theater chains—Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment—will not show the film on opening day, with some adding they may decide to screen it at a later date. Deadline also reported that Sony will remove TV advertising for the movie.

So, in the spirit of not letting bullies win, other publications like The Verge and Slate have called for Sony to release The Interview online. Variety also reports that Sony is considering forgoing the traditional 90-day waiting period and doing a premium video-on-demand release. We think it's a brilliant plan. Here are five reasons why.
 

1. Seth Rogen and James Franco's massive social media following is a free marketing vehicle.

Seth Rogen has 2.38 million Twitter followers, while James Franco has 2.67 million followers. That's not to mention that Franco's Instagram, which has proven it can make national headlines, has 3 million followers.

Imagine if they turned those social media powers towards getting people to watch the movie. They could hold "ask me anything" sessions on Reddit to build buzz, create hashtags on Twitter to get viewers to watch the movie on the same day, or even start a Kickstarter to rent spaces in major U.S. cities to screen the movie. (Oh, wait, maybe Franco should stay off Kickstarter.)

2. Digital film distribution is a booming industry.

Research firm IHS is reporting that digital movie sales and rentals will grow 25 percent this year, making it a $2.3 billion industry.

In fact in Q3 of 2014, Apple made $4.485 billion in revenue from iTunes, software and services alone—a 12 percent increase year over year. While not all of that is due to movies, it does show that online media is a growing industry. In fact, iTunes and app sales are projected to make up 20 percent of Apple's profit by 2020, according to AppleInsider.

And fewer Americans head to theaters to watch movies anyway. A CBS News report showed the number of 18- to 24-year-old patrons dipped 17 percent in 2013, while the number of 12- to 17-year-old attendees went down 13 percent. However, revenues still increased, meaning people still enjoy a good film.

3. It would help Sony improve its damaged PR image.

Saying that Sony was eviscerated by these leaks is the understatement of the year. (Although we did get to hear the thrilling story about why Sony lost the Jobs movie—and what David Fincher thinks about Adam Driver starring in Star Wars.) It's hard to imagine anything worse can come out, but that seems to be disproved almost every day. By releasing the movie online for free (or at a lower cost), it could be seen as an act of goodwill by the movie giant, something it desperately needs to boost its standing in the public's eyes and in Hollywood. 

4. The Interview could reach a larger worldwide market while it's still a hot topic.

Digital distribution knows no geographic boundaries. By allowing anyone to download the film, Sony could tap into markets that wouldn't otherwise receive the movie until later in 2015. By that time buzz from the hacks would have died down. Right now, the Sony news is dominating U.S. headlines and starting to breach international waters. Imagine the returns in South Korea if they were able to get their hands on a copy of the movie.

5. The terrorists will personally block any pirated versions of the movie on principle.

Hear me out on this one. At the beginning of the leaks, the Guardians of Peace made a bunch of demands, including stopping the release of The Interview. They went so far as to release other Sony movies online, but stopped short of putting the source of their ire on the Web because they didn't want anyone to see it. So, if the movie were to make its way online—and predictably end up on illegal torrent sites—it would be in the Guardians of Peace's best interest to remove as many illicit files as possible instead of propagating it further. That's one thing Sony can be thankful for after this whole debacle.  

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