Sony Pictures in Culver City. Photo by John Schreiber.
Sony Pictures in Culver City. Photo by John Schreiber.

Sony changed tacks again Wednesday, releasing “The Interview” online in advance of a limited theatrical release on Christmas Day.

The studio made the film, which prompted a massive cyberattack on Sony that the FBI has blamed on North Korea, available starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time via Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and a Sony site called seetheinterview.com.

After initially balking at a planned Christmas Day release in the face of threats of violence by computer hackers who crippled the Culver City-based studio in late November, Sony on Tuesday announced the film would have a limited theatrical release starting Christmas Day, as well as a video-on-demand availability.

Watching the movie on YouTube and other streaming sites will cost $5.99. Buying the film, in HD format will cost $14.99.

“It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Lynton said in a statement released this morning.

“With that in mind, we reached out to Google, Microsoft and other partners last Wednesday, December 17th, 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 nationwide today,” he said.

The movie, said to cost about $80 million to make and market, is a goofball comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco about plot to assassinate North Korea’s dictator. The FBI has blamed the North Korean government for the hacking by a shadowy group calling itself Guardians of Peace.

The film’s stars tweeted their approval of Sony’s latest decision this morning.

“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,” Rogen said in a Twitter post.

The cyberattack exposed thousands of employees to identity theft, embarrassed executives and celebrities with the release of off-color emails and crippled the studio’s digital infrastructure.

A week ago, Sony announced it was canceling the release, saying big exhibitors were backing out of agreements to show the movie.

President Barack Obama, in a nationally televised news conference, said he thought that was a mistake.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” the president said.     How North Korea will react was anyone’s guess. After Sony initially announced the film would not be released on Christmas, “Guardians of Peace” sent an email to top Sony executives threatening that it would release more private data stolen in the cyberattack if “The Interview” is ever leaked or released in any way.

“We will ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble,” the email read. “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”

Among L.A-area theaters, Laemmle Theatres stated on Twitter that it had “other film commitments” on Christmas, but the film is expected to open on Dec. 31 in North Hollywood.

Vintage Cinemas has scheduled four showings — 1:30, 4:15, 7 and 9:50 p.m. — on Thursday at its Los Feliz theater, 1822 N. Vermont Ave. According to its website, Regency Theatres plans to show the film at its cinemas in Azusa, Agoura Hills, Granada Hills, Commerce, Van Nuys, Westminster, Perris and Riverside.

The nonprofit group Cinefamily quickly posted on Twitter that it would like to show the film at The Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

— City News Service

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