'The Interview' earns $31 million from VOD, $5 million at box office

'The Interview' has grossed $31 million through video on demand

Sony Pictures' "The Interview," the movie at the center of the crippling cyber attack on the studio, has grossed $31 million through video on demand as of Sunday. 

The movie has been rented or purchased about 4.3 million times through services including online streaming sites, digital retailers and cable and satellite VOD, the company said Tuesday. 

Starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, the comedy was originally intended for wide theatrical release in 3,000 theaters on Christmas Day. But Sony changed plans after major theater chains dropped the movie in the face of terror threats from hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace. 

Instead, Sony put the movie out through online channels on Dec. 24 and 331 independent theaters the following day. In its first four days of release, the movie generated $15 million in sales through VOD, making it Sony's top online film ever. 

To be sure, the movie almost certainly would have packed a bigger financial punch had it opened in wide release as originally planned. Eric Wold, an analyst at B. Riley, had estimated the movie could have done $45 million to $60 million in domestic ticket sales in December. It was expected to gross $20 million to $25 million in its opening weekend alone.

Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures' chairman and chief executive, sent an email to staff, expressing pride in the release of the film in the face of the hacking attack.

"We released 'The Interview' through a variety of platforms, and we continue to look for other distribution options," he said in the memo obtained by The Times. "Throughout this whole process, we never stopped – not for a single moment – trying to secure a broad release. Our studio takes great pride in continuing to grow the release of this movie and making it a success. I am so proud of the teams that worked long hours through the holiday break to make this a reality, and for the positive response from the public."

The movie is available through online channels including Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and iTunes, as well as VOD services from the likes of Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable

The film's theatrical reach has expanded to 580 cinemas, and it has grossed $5 million at the box office.

"The teams that worked on the innovative distribution of 'The Interview' are just a few of the many that put in long hours over our studio holiday to ensure business continuity, rebuild our systems, and protect our company," Lynton said in his email. "I am grateful for the sacrifices many of you made to make this all happen."

He added: "We have demonstrated – through the release of 'The Interview' in particular – the value of collaboration through our incredibly diverse business. We have demonstrated the value of innovation through finding creative work-arounds. We have demonstrated the value of drive, as it has gotten us through the past few weeks and will be what takes us to the next level.

"We will take what we have learned from this experience and innovate our business together. We will continue to renew and redefine Sony Pictures." 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

2:45 p.m.: This post was updated with Michael Lynton quotes from a memo.

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