Published On: Mon, Dec 29th, 2014

Sony ‘Extremely Grateful’ as Farcical Movie Banks over $15 Million

Michael Lynton

On the heels of a $15 online launch for “The Interview, ” Sony Pictures’ top distribution executive has thanked moviegoers for their support of the controversy-laden political comedy, Variety said.

“Considering the incredibly challenging circumstances, we are extremely grateful to the people all over the country who came out to experience ‘The Interview’ on the first day of its unconventional release, ” said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures, in a statement.

“The audience reaction was fantastic — the limited release, in under 10% of the amount of theaters originally planned, featured numerous sellouts and a first-day gross over $1 million, ” he said.

Hundreds of screenings of “The Interview” were sold out on Christmas Day despite Sony releasing the film online the day before. The solid showing could be quickly eclipsed by the money Sony Pictures makes with its groundbreaking online debut of the raunchy film, Reuters said.

“The Interview” finished in 15th place for Christmas Day and played at 331 independent theaters in the U.S., following more than a month of intensive news coverage — starting with a massive cyber-attack on Sony, a Dec. 16 threat by hackers to launch a 9/11-style attack on theaters showing the movie, the studio’s decision to withdraw the movie on Dec. 17 and an about-face six days later, Variety said.

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton explained the decision to ultimately go forward with the release. “It was essential for our studio to distribute this movie, especially given the assault on our business and on our staff, ” Lynton said in a video obtained by ABC News.

The hacker threat of attacks on theaters — which the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security had said last week was not credible — failed to materialize.

The opening day numbers for “The Interview” were impressive given that Sony launched a VOD release of the film on Wednesday morning via YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own website, Variety said.

That the farcical film – which angered North Korea and triggered a devastating cyberattack on the studio – is now a guinea pig for Hollywood’s digital future constitutes another bizarre twist in the month-long Sony Pictures saga, according to Reuters.

The comedy, steeped in gross-out, bathroom humor, depicts the travails of two journalists who get enlisted to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. It might not be a typical Christmas Day release, but it filled theaters and got lots of laughs.

The controversy gave the film exposure to audiences that might never have gone to see it otherwise, and many who showed up on Christmas Day said they were there to support free speech, Reuters said.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said the United States is reviewing whether to put North Korea back onto its list of state sponsors of terrorism following the cyberattack on Sony, which officials blame on the communist nation, the Jewish Voice said.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Nation, Obama said he did not consider the hack an act of war, but a “very costly, very expensive” example of cyber vandalism.

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