'The Interview' made available on digital platforms

Sony Lawyer Says 'The Interview' Will Be Released

LOS ANGELES (AP) - "The Interview" became available for rental on a variety of digital platforms Wednesday, including Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a separate Sony website, Sony Pictures announced.

The movie, released at 1 p.m. EST, costs $5.99 to stream and $14.99 to purchase. It also will open in over 300 theaters on Thursday.

The studio announced the on-demand release just one day after reversing a previous decision not to show the film at all after hackers released thousands of internal Sony documents and threatened moviegoers with violence. The decision not to release the film was widely criticized, with President Barack Obama one of Sony's harshest critics.

"It has always been Sony's intention to have a national platform on which to release this film," said Sony Pictures chair and CEO Michael Lynton in a statement Wednesday. "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. 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."

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Obama welcomed the news.

"As the president made clear on Friday, we do not live in a country where a foreign dictator can start imposing censorship here in the United States. With today's announcements, people can now make their own choices about the film, and that's how it should be," Schultz said.

The unusual release is unprecedented: Studios have released smaller indie and foreign movies simultaneously in theaters and on digital platforms, but never a mainstream film like "The Interview."

However, analysts said the situation with "The Interview" left Sony little choice.

"This isn't being done because Sony wants to do it regularly, but rather out of necessity prompted by the exhibitor boycott," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "The only guys showing it are independent chains."

"Sony is in a delicate situation here since they normally never go this route with a major film, but theater chains also know this is a unique back-against-the-wall situation," added Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com.

It's challenging to put a figure on how much Sony might benefit financially from releasing the movie on demand, Pandya said.

But he said all the attention "The Interview" has had over the past month has likely boosted the curiosity level for movie goers and will lead to "strong averages from the limited theatrical release plus solid VOD sales over the holidays." He expects the interest to fade away in early January.

Google showed its support with a post on its official blog, saying the company "could not sit on the sidelines."

"Of course it was tempting to hope that something else would happen to ensure this movie saw the light of day. But after discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be). "

Lynton said the release represented the company's commitment to free speech.

"While we couldn't have predicted the road this movie traveled to get to this moment, I'm proud our fight was not for nothing and that cyber criminals were not able to silence us," he said.


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'The Interview' made available on digital platforms
(L-R) Actors James Franco, Charles Rahi Chun and Seth Rogen arrive for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
The entrance of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California is seen December 16, 2014. 'Guardians of Peace' hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning the Hollywood studio not to release a film which has angered North Korea. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
The entrance of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California is seen December 16, 2014. 'Guardians of Peace' hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning the Hollywood studio not to release a film which has angered North Korea. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Seth Rogen and James Franco talk about their controversial action-comedy 'The Interview,' on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, airing Tuesday, DEC. 16 (7-9am, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: James Franco and Seth Rogen take part in a SiriusXM Town Hall with Seth Rogen and James Franco with host Lisa Lampinelli on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel at the SiriusXM Studios on December 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Seth Rogen takes part in a SiriusXM Town Hall with Seth Rogen and James Franco with host Lisa Lampinelli on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel at the SiriusXM Studios on December 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) James Franco and Seth Rogen arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Interview' held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown LA on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
Movie posters for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Security is seen outside The Theatre at Ace Hotel before the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy security is seen outside The Theatre at Ace Hotel before the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring Us actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
TAIYUAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 18: (CHINA OUT) A woman poses with Kim Jong-un's figure at a shopping mall on December 18, 2014 in Taiyuan, Shanxi province of China. A shopping mall held a public welfare art show of famous stars' wax figures wearing face masks to call on people to protect environment. All visitors to enter the wax figure museum should wear face masks. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
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