The film was made available at 1 p.m. (0600 GMT) on YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox video and a special website built by Sony, www.seetheinterview.com. The film is available to rent for $5.99 or buy for $14.99.
The move shows that Sony wants to distribute beyond the approximately 300 independent movie theaters that agreed Tuesday to show the film. While a 3,000-screen release was originally planned for Dec. 25, the United State’s largest cinema chains pulled the film amid threats of violence from a group claiming responsibility for a massive cyber attack against Sony in November.
"It was essential for our studio to release this movie, especially given the assault upon our business and our employees by those who wanted to stop free speech," Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said Wednesday in a statement about the online release. "We chose the path of digital distribution first so as to reach as many people as possible on opening day, and we continue to seek other partners and platforms to further expand the release.”
The journey of the film, which depicts the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, sounds like it was ripped from a script itself.
In the largest cyber attack in corporate history, a group calling itself Guardians of Peace broke into Sony’s computer systems and leaked embarrassing emails to the press and unreleased films online. The group, linked to North Korea’s government by the FBI, then threatened Sept. 11-style terrorist attacks against theaters showing “The Interview,” which prompted most venues to cancel the release.
Bending to the will of the attackers sparked an outcry over censorship that caused even President Barack Obama to criticize Sony for pulling the film, a move he called “a mistake.”