'The Interview' rakes in $15M online in opening weekend

Sony says controversial movie was rented or purchased online more than 2 million times, making it the studio's most successful online release ever.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

"The Interview" is an online hit for Sony. Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures' awkward release of "The Interview" is showing signs of a video-on-demand success story.

The studio announced Sunday that the controversial comedy had been rented or purchased online more than 2 million times in its first four days of availability, bringing in more than $15 million. The movie, which also had a limited theatrical release, is now Sony's top grossing online film of all time.

Meanwhile, the movie, which had a $44 million budget, grossed approximately $2.8 million in the same four days in 331 movie theaters, Sony said.

"The No. 1 priority of our unconventional release was to give people the chance to see 'The Interview,'" Rory Bruer, president of Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures, said in a statement. "While this is a completely unprecedented circumstance without proper comparisons, we are very pleased with how it is doing both theatrically where we are seeing numerous sell-outs across the country, and online where it remains at the top of many charts."

The comedy, which depicts actors Seth Rogen and James Franco as TV journalists planning to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was at the center of a crippling security breach at Sony Pictures in November that resulted in a massive and embarrassing spill of company secrets. The movie was slated to be released in theaters on December 25, but its release was initially canceled following threats of violence against cinemas made by the alleged hackers.

After being chastised for the cancellation by President Obama, many celebrities and would-be viewers, Sony did an about-face on Tuesday, announcing that it would release "The Interview" in theaters that wanted to show it. Sony also said that it was working on getting the movie into "more platforms and more theaters."

The announcement of the movie's online sales came a few hours after "The Interview" finally made its debut on Apple's iTunes. The film, which has been available since Wednesday on YouTube Movies, Google Play, Xbox and a dedicated Sony-built website, Seetheinterview.com, is available to rent on iTunes for $6 or to buy for $15 in the US. "The Interview" is not yet available to view outside of the US and Canada.