The Interview earned more than US$15 million in online sales in its first four days of distribution, as Sony Corp bypassed a wide theater release amid concerns from major cinemas about threats of violence from hackers that the FBI has linked to North Korea.
The movie, a farce about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was rented or purchased online more than 2 million times from Wednesday through Saturday, Sony Pictures Entertainment said in a statement yesterday.
The unconventional rollout of the film came after a group called Guardians of Peace claimed responsibility for infiltrating Sony Pictures’ servers last month, destroying data, exposing Hollywood secrets and forcing the studio to disrupt its plans for the movie’s release.
Sony made the movie available on Wednesday on Google’s Play, YouTube’s Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox videogame console and seetheinterview.com, a Web site sponsored by the movie company.
Apple began offering the comedy on its iTunes Store yesterday, expanding its online reach.
The film was also released in a limited number of theaters on Thursday after major chains canceled their planned Christmas Day showings after the threats.
The Interview has taken in about US$2.8 million in box office sales from 331 theaters since its release, said Rentrak Corp a market research firm that tracks the movie business. That figure includes about US$1 million on Christmas Day.
Culver City, California-based Sony Pictures said in a statement that The Interview already ranks as its top online film ever. Sales will be helped further by the release on iTunes, where US and Canadian customers can rent the movie for US$5.99 or buy it for US$14.99.
Last week’s online rollout made The Interview the highest-profile feature film to debut on the Internet and gave YouTube a chance to show that it is more than just a destination for user-generated videos.
Google, which owns the video-sharing site, has been adding a growing collection of films, including Divergent and The Lego Movie, in a drive to bolster its premium content to compete with Apple’s music and video library.
The Interview is the first big simultaneous theatrical and online release. Typically, such debuts have been reserved for smaller films, Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.
The movie’s arrival in theaters was not met with any reports of violence. However, on the same day, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live were hit by connection failures.Hackers calling themselves Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the disruptions.
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