No theatres, no problem: The Interview movie makes $18 million from online sales

Sony Pictures said The Interview has earned more than US$15 million in online sales and another US$2.8 million in theatres, an impressive return made possible by the publicity surrounding the cyberattack blamed on North Korea. -- PHOTO: AFP
Sony Pictures said The Interview has earned more than US$15 million in online sales and another US$2.8 million in theatres, an impressive return made possible by the publicity surrounding the cyberattack blamed on North Korea. -- PHOTO: AFP

(Reuters) - Sony Pictures said The Interview has earned more than US$15 million in online sales and another US$2.8 million in theatres, 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 theatres in its opening weekend as it would have in a wide release that was shelved after threats from hackers.

The studio said on Dec 28 the film had been purchased or rented online more than 2 million times on the four days since its release, making it Sony Pictures' No. 1 online movie of all time.

The US$44 million film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco had been expected to gross at least US$20 million in its opening holiday weekend if it had gone to wide release, according to Boxoffice.com.

The film triggered a devastating cyberattack on the studio last month, which the United States says was launched by North Korea. It opened Thursday in 331 independent theatres and Sony also stitched together a US$5.99 video-on-demand (VOD) rental and US$14.99 purchase option on YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox Video and a dedicated site starting Dec 24. Apple Inc is also carrying the movie for rental and purchase on popular online store iTunes.

Sony has been fiercely criticised by top Hollywood talent and US President Barack Obama for what many considered caving to the hackers.

It was still unclear whether Sony, which is still struggling with the impact of the cyberattack, would recoup the money it spent to make the film and the US$30 million or US$40 million in estimated marketing costs.