Microsoft is streaming "The Interview" from Sony Pictures Entertainment on Christmas Eve, the company announced today.
The movie is at the center of a recent Sony hacking scandal involving terabytes' worth of data, including videos, personally identifiable information and emails from high-level executives. The comedy's plot revolves around two bumbling journalists, played by James Franco and Seth Rogen, on a CIA mission to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
A group calling itself #GOP (Guardians of Peace) claimed responsibility. They later threatened to bomb theaters that showed the movie, casting suspicion on North Korea as the source of the attack. Sony Pictures pulled the movie after four major theater chains indicated that "The Interview" would not show up on their screens for its Dec. 25 premiere. Sony reversed its decision with a plan for limited screenings.
Instead, the company is has put the film up on Xbox Video a day ahead of its original official date. "#TheInterview is available today on #XboxVideo and on http://XboxVideo.com," announced Microsoft in a Dec. 24 tweet from its Entertainment for Xbox account (@XboxEntertain).
The movie will also be available on YouTube, Google Play and Sony's own SeeTheInterview.com Website. It costs $5.99 to rent and $14.99 to own.
"As has been widely reported, Sony was the victim of a sophisticated cyber-attack with the intent of preventing the distribution of this film. Despite the effort to block this movie, it will now be shown in many theaters and will be available online," Microsoft's top lawyer, Brad Smith, said in a statement.
"This is good news. A cyber-attack on anyone's rights is a cyber-attack on everyone's rights, and together we need to defend against it," added Smith.
"Last Wednesday Sony began contacting a number of companies, including Google, to ask if we'd be able to make their movie, 'The Interview,' available online," said David Drummond, Google senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer, in a company blog post. "We'd had a similar thought and were eager to help—though, given everything that's happened, the security implications were very much at the front of our minds."
After their discussions, "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)," said Drummond.
"It has always been Sony's intention to have a national platform on which to release this film," Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said in a statement. "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."
Acknowledging the Sony hack, Lynton said it was "essential" for the studio to release the film, "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."