NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The combined theatrical and online sales of Sony's (SNE) lightning rod of a comedy film The Interview must have been satisfying to the Hollywood studio despite all the headaches and embarrassment caused by the massive hacking of the company's computer network.
After being made available for online streaming and purchase at several Web sites, The Interview, a satirical romp about an attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, grossed an estimated $2.8 million over the four-day Christmas weekend at the 331 independent U.S. movie theaters showing it, Sony said on Monday. The comedy also grossed more than $15 million online in the first four days it was available, the company said.
"These are extremely impressive numbers and prove that when you give the people what they want, particularly a movie that is the object of so much news and controversy, they will line up in the virtual as well as the physical world to see it," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.
It was a "truly unique situation," he said. But it's "unlikely to signal a sea change in the way that big budget studio movies are released," he said.
The Interview was made available online across the U.S. at 1 p.m. EST on Christmas Eve as a high-definition rental on Google (GOOG) Play, YouTube Movies, the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox Video service and the dedicated Web site www.seetheinterview.com. The price was set at $5.99. The film was also made available for purchase in HD at $14.99. Online distribution was expanded to Canada through Google Play, YouTube Movies and Xbox Video starting later that afternoon.
Through Saturday, The Interview was rented or purchased online more than 2 million times across all the platforms, said Sony. The movie "already ranks" as Sony Pictures' top online film of all time, the company said.
The decision by Apple (AAPL) to add The Interview to its iTunes service on Sunday in HD and standard definition at the same pricing "will provide additional revenues and likely drew folks who may have been first time users" to that service, said Dergarabedian.
Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on why it decided to wait a few days before making the movie available.