'The Interview' Goes to YouTube, Google Play, XBox

'The Interview'
Ed Araquel

The controversial R-rated comedy will also simultaneously appear in 300 theaters around the country, setting a precedent for studio use of VOD

Sony's The Interview will become available today on a variety of online platforms including YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft's Xbox Video and Sony's own dedicated website www.seetheinterview.com, the studio has announced. The movie, which will go online at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, can be rented for $5.99 and purchased in HD for $14.99.

“It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment, said. “With that in mind, we reached out to Google, Microsoft and other partners last Wednesday, Dec. 17, when it became clear our initial release plans were not possible. We are pleased we can now join with our partners to offer the film nation-wide today.

“We never stopped pursuing as wide a release as possible for The Interview. 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."

Read more 'The Interview': Which Theaters Are Showing the Film on Christmas Day

“I want to thank Google and Microsoft for helping make this a reality," Lynton stated. "This release represents our commitment to our filmmakers and 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."

On the Google blog, David Drummond, senior vp, corporate development and chief legal officer for Google, added, "Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sideline and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be)."

Sony is also believed to be currently negotiating with Netflix to offer the movie on the streaming service, although neither Sony or Netflix would comment on that possibility. However, since Netflix is a subscription service, the movie would probably not appear there until it has a chance to attract viewers on the pay-per-view sites the studio has currently enlisted.

On his Twitter account, the movie's star and co-directer Seth Rogen exclaimed of the newly-announced VOD plans, "You wanna watch The Interview?? You can Right Fucking Now!! Go to theinterview-movie.com. Thanks Sony for making it happen. Booyah." He also added one caveat though in a follow-up tweet: "I need to say that a comedy is best viewed in a theater full of people, so if you can, I'd watch it like that. Or call some friends over." He also offered "sincere apologies" that The Interview is not available for download in Canada, but promised that it would be soon. His costar James Franco tweeted, "Marry X-mas MERICA! !!!!!THE INTERVIEW IS LIVE!!!!!." He also urged his Twitter and Instagram followers to take pictures of themselves watching the movie.

Currently, The Interview also is scheduled to play about 300 independent theaters across the country, opening on Christmas Day.

Read more Amy Adams on Canceled 'Today' Interview: I Was "Confused" and "Frustrated"

YouTube has a two-year older movie rental system that, to date, has mostly be used for smaller and older titles. But the service offers Sony the opportunity to offer the movie, quickly, on a large scale and also raises the profile of YouTube movie rentals.

By making The Interview available in theaters and on VOD simultaneously, Sony will be setting a major precedent for a Hollywood studio, since the country's major theater chains have guarded their right to debut movies exclusively and refuse to show movies that are also debuting on VOD. The move is likely to further alienate the chains, which are already furious with the studio for putting much of the blame on them when it canceled the movie's release last week only to then come up with an alternate distribution plan when confronted with criticism from everyone from the White House on down.

In 2011, Universal Pictures attempted a more modest VOD experiment, under which the film Tower Heist would have been made available on VOD three weeks after it first appeared in theaters, but the theaters objected fiercely and Universal dropped the plan.

After Sony was hit with criticism for dropping the film, it returned to theater owners, telling them it would release the movie theatrically on Christmas Day, the film's original release date, but that it was also looking at an online release on various streaming platforms.

To see Lynton's video message to Sony employees, click here

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