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Last Updated Friday November 22 2019 04:40 AM IST
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A Korean comedy & commerce

P Kishore
Special Correspondent @ Malayala Manorama
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The Interview Sook (Diana Bang) with Aaron (Seth Rogen) and Dave (James Franco) in The Interview. Photo: Reuters

Terence Hill-Bud Spencer and Laurel-Hardy, the celebrated Hollywood comedy duos, gave us the heartiest laughs of our childhood. These days, Rogan-Franco duo rule the roost. Pineapple Express is the finest example. The comedy cousin's latest offering The Interview became a comedy of another kind all over the world. It also opened up a new avenue to market films—online streaming.

Kim Jong-un, the despot of North Korea is the central character in this comedy film. The link and resemblance irked the Koreans. Soon producers of the film Sony Pictures' website came under cyber attack and the US attributed it to Korean hackers. In the film, Franco and Rogan are two TV personalities who get a call from Kim Jong-un to interview him in North Korea. The FBI wants the duo to use this opportunity to assassinate the Korean leader. The film has all the ingredients for lavish slapstick comedy.

Post the cyber attack and warning from hacker groups, Sony Pictures had decided to screen the film only in a few selected theatres in US. President Barak Obama's words of wisdom, that no foreign despot should be allowed to impose censorship over the US, pushed things a little and Sony decided to simultaneously release the film on online and theatres. By this time the film had received unprecedented global publicity. With the money raked in through both online and theatre releases, Sony had the last laugh. The losers were North Korea and its supreme leader Kim.

In just four days Sony made $15 million from online video deals. Over two million people watched the movie through online. Sony did not reveal how many of those two million video-on-demand (VOD) transactions were rentals ($5.99) versus purchases ($14.99), nor did the company disclose its revenue split with its online partners. But The Interview’s $15 million haul easily outpaces previous 'day and date' VOD successes like Snowpiercer ($7 million) and The Bachelorette ($8.2 million).

The Interview Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) heading out to Korea to interview President Kim. Photo: Reuters

The Interview turned out to be the breakthrough victory that VOD has been waiting for. While Sony should be commended for convincing two million people to pony up for VOD despite the absence of the biggest VOD players—including Comcast, DirecTV, Apple, and Amazon. The company, however, can’t erase the memory of when it capitulated to the hackers demands and cancelled the film’s theatrical release.

But the biggest Interview losers were the major North American theatre chains, which had successfully kept the VODs at bay. They lost their first big battle, while also missed out on their portion of the revenue that The Interview could have pulled in over the holiday season. Instead, more than two million potential movie-goers were exposed to the ease and reduced cost of watching a new Hollywood releases at home.

In Chinese language, the word for crisis is the same as the word for opportunity. Exactly what played out in Bollywood in the case of Interview. This also has opened the eyes of domestic film companies and producers. A Malayalam film is being released online even before its theatre release. Thousands of expatriate Malayalis have a chance now to watch the latest flicks from their cosy corners, where ever they are.

The internet security companies are also having a field day. With increased fear of hacking and hence increased budgets, they are also making more deals for security than ever before. It's kinda win-win for many.

The Interview

Lastpost- Recently a barbershop in London, advertised to give its customers a Kim style hair cut. A photo of Kim Jong-un was placed on the window with the tag line. The Korean embassy protested against it and the shop owners had to removed the photo. However, the hair-cut still continues.

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