Not one hour after we heard YouTube had "tentatively agreed" to offer The Interview as a rental, Sony Pictures has confirmed the film will be available online starting today at 1PM ET. It'll be offered through YouTube Movies, Google Play, Xbox Video, and a dedicated website SeeTheInterview.com.
The film will cost $5.99 to rent and $14.99 to own an HD copy. Notably absent from the list: Apple's iTunes, which reportedly said no despite White House involvement, Amazon, and Sony's own PlayStation Network.
Google put it best:
In an lengthier statement, Google said that after talking with Sony, the two companies "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)."
More distributors are likely to follow but not necessarily on Christmas Day. Variety reports that Netflix is in talks and could potentially offer it to stream "within a few days." And while iTunes wasn't reportedly interested "at least not a speedy time table," that doesn't mean it won't be available sooner rather than later. (It's worth noting that you should be able to rent The Interview on Apple TV through the YouTube channel.)
Here's the full statement from Sony Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton:
It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film. 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 nation-wide today.
We never stopped pursuing as wide a release as possible for The Interview. It was essential for our studio to release this movie, 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.
I want to thank Google and Microsoft for helping make this a reality. This release represents our commitment to our filmmakers and free speech. While we couldn’t have predicted the road this movie traveled to get to this moment, I’m proud our fight was not for nothing and that cyber criminals were not able to silence us.
No doubt the issues we have confronted these last few weeks will not end with this release, but we are gratified to have stood together and confident in our future. I want to thank everyone at Sony Pictures for their dedication and perseverance through what has been an extraordinary and difficult time.
President Obama also praised the move:
In the United States, freedom of expression is a fundamental principle that is protected by law. Our Constitution guarantees for each person the right to decide what books to read, what movies to watch, and even what games to play. In the 21st Century, there is no more important place for that right to be exercised than on the Internet. After substantial thought, we decided to stand up with Sony and work with others to ensure that freedom of expression triumphs over cyber-terrorism.
We of course appreciate that there are varied views regarding this film. That’s true of many works and many issues. We’re not endorsing this movie or any other. We are supporting the Constitutional right of free expression, and we hope that by acting together, we will help deter other attacks.
Update December 24th, 1:35PM: with full Sony Entertainment statement, and comment from President Obama, and again at 4PM with comment from Microsoft.