‘The Interview’ brings in more than $15 million; played across NC

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NEW YORK — In a landmark moment for digital movie distribution, “The Interview” has earned more than $15 million through online sales in its first four days of release.

Sony Pictures said Sunday that the scandalous Seth Rogen comedy was “rented or purchased online more than 2 million times” between Wednesday, when it was released, and Saturday.

The totals do not include Sunday, when Rogen and others held a live-tweet session to further promote online streams of the movie.

“Total consumer spending through Saturday for The Interview online is over $15 million,” Sony said in a statement. Earlier, studio executives would only say that rental numbers were strong.

That’s far more than the movie made in theaters — despite sold-out showings in a patchwork of theaters across the country. Through Sunday, “The Interview” is expected to make about $2.8 million at the 331 independently-owned theaters that have been showing it since Christmas Day.

This is about in line with industry expectations. Had it opened in the 2,000 to 3,000 theaters it was originally scheduled to be in, the movie would have made far more. But security fears scuttled that release two weeks ago and led to a hybrid in-theater and at-home release plan.

That’s how Sony un-canceled the movie last week, with the help of independent theaters and online stores like Google’s YouTube. (Some of the big theater chains would have considered showing the movie, but they objected to online distribution while the movie was in theaters.)

“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,” Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said in a statement earlier on Sunday.

The movie was initially available through YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox video store, and a dedicated Sony web site.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, it was also made available through Apple’s iTunes store, a development first reported by Re/code. Rental through iTunes costs $5.99, the same price as through the other sites.

The addition of Apple is noteworthy because an earlier distribution deal between Apple and Sony fell apart last week.

“The Interview” is still not available through Sony’s PlayStation video store. The PlayStation Network has been plagued by an apparently unrelated outage in recent days.

To encourage more rentals of the movie, Rogen, his co-star James Franco and co-director Evan Goldberg held the live-tweet session Sunday afternoon. It was a twist on the notion of “social TV.”

One Twitter executive dubbed the social networking site “the world’s biggest movie theater.” The site has been promoting the live-tweeting session extensively.

In a statement about the weekend box office numbers, Rogen said, “The fact that people actually left their houses when they had the option of staying home is amazing.”

The movie played at various theaters in the Piedmont area including businesses in Greensboro and Martinsville.

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