LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sony Pictures Entertainment added more viewing options for its provocative comedy “The Interview,” making the film available through U.S. pay television operators and nearly doubling the number of independent theaters that will show the movie.
The film, blamed for triggering a massive cyberattack on Sony’s movie studio, will also be sold through Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s digital on-demand service, Vudu, and on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Sony said in a statement on Wednesday.
On Dec. 17, Sony canceled the Christmas Day release of “The Interview,” a farcical story starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists recruited by the CIA to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after hackers threatened violence against movie theaters and major theater chains refused to show it.
Following days of criticism from Hollywood celebrities and President Barack Obama, Sony struck deals to launch the film in 331 independent theaters and through online distributors, such as Google Inc’s YouTube Movies and Google Play.
After the film earned $15 million from 2 million sales or rentals over four days, Apple Inc added the movie to its iTunes store, where it ranked as the top-selling movie on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. cable, satellite and telecommunications providers began making the “The Interview” available to rent through their video on-demand and pay-per-view services, Sony said. The providers include Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc, Cox Communications, AT&T Inc’s U-verse, Verizon Communications Inc’s Fios and DirecTV. Vudu and Verizon customers also can buy the film.
“The Interview” will also play in more than 580 independent theaters starting on Friday.
Over the long Christmas holiday weekend, the limited theatrical release brought in $2.8 million at the box office, as moviegoers turned out to support what they called a triumph for free speech.
Sony is trying to recoup the $44 million production budget plus an estimated $30 million to $40 million in marketing costs for “The Interview.” The studio shares revenue from theater and online sales with the distributors.
The U.S. government has blamed retaliation by North Korea for the hacking of Sony in November, the most destructive cyberattack on a company on U.S. soil. North Korea has denied that it was behind the attack.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis