"That is a huge number," said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations.
"This is almost what it was going to do theatrically before it was pulled. It made about what people expected, but in a completely different way."
The film that triggered the devastating cyberattack on the studio last month, which the United States says was launched by North Korea, opened Thursday in 331 independent theaters with a $1 million box office and $1.8 million over the subsequent three days, according to Sony. Many filmgoers and theater owners said they supported the film in the name of free speech.
The $44 million film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco had been expected to gross at least $20 million in its opening holiday weekend if it had gone to wide release, according to Boxoffice.com.
After large movie theater chains, like AMC and Regal Entertainment, refused to screen the comedy following threats of violence from hackers who opposed the film, Sony stitched together a limited release in theaters and a $5.99 video-on-demand (VOD) rental and $14.99 purchase option on YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox Video and a dedicated site starting Dec. 24.
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Sony had been fiercely criticized by top Hollywood talent and President Barack Obama for what many considered caving to the hackers. Sony maintained it had no choice but to pull the wide release and immediately began looking for alternative platforms with technology companies.
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It was still unclear whether Sony, which is still struggling with the impact of the cyberattack, would recoup the money it spent to make the film and the $30 million or $40 million in estimated marketing costs.