Controversial movie ‘The Interview’ grossed $1 million on Christmas Day

James Franco and Seth Rogen star in Sony Pictures’ “The Interview.”
James Franco and Seth Rogen star in Sony Pictures’ “The Interview.” The Associated Press

The patchwork theatrical release Sony Pictures put together for “The Interview” generated about $1 million in ticket sales Christmas Day, a largely symbolic box office result.

“The Interview” was initially planned for release in more than 2,000 domestic theaters but was pulled after a terror threat. Sony ultimately reversed itself, cobbling together 331 art house theaters, including the Alamo Drafthouse in Kansas City, to play the R-rated comedy. Though some of the houses were large — 400 seats — some were as small as 170 seats.

“Considering the incredibly challenging circumstances, we are extremely grateful to the people all over the country who came out to experience ‘The Interview’ on the first day of its unconventional release,” Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of distribution, said in a statement Friday morning.

Sony provided no financial results for its online rollout of the film. Starting Wednesday, the studio made “The Interview” available for $15 sale and $6 rental on Microsoft’s Xbox platform, YouTube Movies and other digital stores. Studios do not publicly report online and video-on-demand results.

Sony will almost certainly lose money on “The Interview,” which cost $44 million to make. It had already spent at least $35 million more on marketing by the time its wide release was canceled.

“The Interview” will, of course, cost Sony much more in a broader sense. Hackers tied by the FBI to North Korea attacked the studio over the film, leading to broad reputation, legal and infrastructure costs that will go on for years. “The Interview” is about the assassination of North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong Un.

Overall, the Christmas Day box office was strong, with Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” in particular, opening to much better results than some analysts had expected. A period drama released by Universal Pictures, “Unbroken” took in an estimated $15.6 million Thursday in North American theaters, making it the No. 1 draw, according to Rentrak, which compiles box office data.

The Disney musical “Into the Woods” also got off to a good start, selling about $15.1 million in tickets Thursday.