Sony's 'The Interview' makes $18 million in opening weekend
By Liana B. Baker and Mary Milliken
(Reuters) - Sony Pictures (6758.T: Quote) said "The Interview" has earned more than $15 million in online sales and another $2.8 million in theaters, an impressive return made possible by the publicity surrounding the cyberattack blamed on North Korea.
The raunchy comedy that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made almost as much money through online distribution and in limited theaters in its opening weekend as it would have in a wide release that was shelved after threats from hackers.
The studio said on Sunday the film had been purchased or rented online more than 2 million times on the four days through Saturday, making it Sony Pictures' No. 1 online movie of all time.
"That is a huge number," said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations.
"This is almost what it was going to do theatrically before it was pulled. It made about what people expected, but in a completely different way."
The film that triggered the devastating cyberattack on the studio last month, which the United States says was launched by North Korea, opened Thursday in 331 independent theaters with a $1 million box office and $1.8 million over the subsequent three days, according to Sony. Many filmgoers and theater owners said they supported the film in the name of free speech.
The $44 million film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco had been expected to gross at least $20 million in its opening holiday weekend if it had gone to wide release, according to Boxoffice.com.
After large movie theater chains, like AMC (AMC.N: Quote) and Regal Entertainment RGC.N, refused to screen the comedy following threats of violence from hackers who opposed the film, Sony stitched together a limited release in theaters and a $5.99 video-on-demand (VOD) rental and $14.99 purchase option on YouTube Movies, Google Play (GOOGL.O: Quote), Microsoft Xbox Video (MSFT.O: Quote) and a dedicated site starting Dec. 24. Continued...