Arts & Entertainment

Sony hack: 'The Interview' hits cinemas, streaming audience

Poster for the film
Poster for the film "The Interview."
Columbia Pictures

Update 2:30 p.m: North Korea says no 'physical reaction' expected following film's release

North Korea says it likely will have no "physical reaction," just condemnation, to the release of the comedy film "The Interview," which depicts the assassination of leader Kim Jong Un.

A North Korea diplomat to the United Nations told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his country opposes the film's release online and in over 300 U.S. theaters this week. The film was briefly shelved after a devastating hacking attack on Sony Pictures that the United States has blamed on North Korea.

But diplomat Kim Song said his country has no relation to the hacking and can prove it. He also expressed frustration that the U.S. refused North Korea's offer of a joint investigation.

He called the film an "unpardonable mockery of our sovereignty and dignity of our supreme leader."

Previously: In a surprise move Wednesday morning, Sony Pictures Entertainment released "The Interview," the movie that has been at the center of a massive studio hack, via several Internet video-on-demand streaming services.

At 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve, a day ahead of its theatrical release, which was in doubt until yesterday, the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco about a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader became available for streaming on Google Play, YouTube, Microsoft Xbox Video and the dedicated website www.seetheinterview.com.

"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," Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment, said in a statement.

(A screenshot from Google Play's movie streaming service taken Wednesday, December 24, 2014, shows "The Interview" available for purchase or rental.)

(A screenshot from YouTube's movie streaming service taken Wednesday, December 24, 2014, shows "The Interview" available for purchase or rental.)

Sony has been embroiled in controversy after a group the FBI said has ties to North Korea hacked the studio's network, releasing a trove of internal correspondence and sensitive employee data. After the group threatened violence against anyone who went to see the film, the studio said it was canceling the planned Christmas Day release, prompting further criticism from celebrities, free speech advocates and even the president.

In a blog post Wednesday, Google executive and chief legal officer David Drummond said Sony approached the search and media giant along with other video streaming companies about making the movie available online.

"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)," Drummond wrote.

The film was also scheduled for release in more than 300 theaters nationwide starting Dec. 25, according to Sony.

This story has been updated.