‘The Interview’ Is Now a Rallying Cry for Freedom as It Shoots to No. 1 on Google Play

Reviews are in: Go America

Call it a showing of Christmas patriotism, at least for some viewers.

The Interview shot to the top-selling spot on Google's Play store almost instantly after being released online on Christmas Eve in defiance of a hacking group that threatened to shut down Seth Rogen and James Franco's buddy movie.

The Interview started streaming online Wednesday afternoon after Sony got help from rivals like Google and Microsoft to stream the flick even though the hackers tried to blackmail the company into dropping support for the movie.

It soon sat atop the top-selling movies category in the Google digital store, and remained there through Christmas and into Boxing Day. It racked up almost 1,000 comments within a couple hours of launch. There were mostly positive reviews, and it has 4.7 stars out five. Many commenters didn't even seem to care if the movie was good or bad, but just wanted to stick it to the people behind the attacks that tried to stop the movie's release.

One reviewer said: "It tastes like freedom. This will forever be the movie that defines American freedom of speech … for better or worse."

Another reviewer said: "I bought this movie just to say "FU" to the hackers," and a number of others had similar sentiments.

Sony said today it would stream The Interview on YouTube and Microsoft's Xbox Live while also playing it in select theaters Christmas Day. There were no reported incidents at any of the 331 independently owned theaters that screened the movie on Christmas.

After its digital launch, the movie created an outpouring of support on news sites like Business Insider and Mashable, which live-blogged while viewing the film, and "Watching The Interview" was trending on Twitter.

"This movie will be awful, but it's my choice to watch awful," one Twitter user posted.

The opening of the movie had been thrown into question after a hacker group (possibly working for North Korea and possibly not) leaked Sony secrets online and threatened more if the movie wasn't shelved. The Interview will now have a mostly digital run on YouTube, Google's Play store, Sony's website, and its rival Microsoft's streaming service.

In making the movie available, the digital industry is both defying threats to free speech and showing its strength as a distribution channel that is channging the face of media and enteratinment. YouTube is more known for its videos from homegrown talent than for renting Hollywood movies.

The threat to The Interview seems to have united longtime foes. Sony is a direct rival with Microsoft in gaming, and the company has a public feud with Google over contentious online piracy rules. In fact, the hacked emails exposed new fissures between Google and the movie industry in the fight over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which the search giant says threatens to censor the Internet while Hollywood studios want it to protect the value of their movies.

Even still there is a united front to stream The Interview, according to a Google blog post Wednesday.

"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)," David Drummond, Google's chief legal counsel, said.

CNN's Brian Stelter was first to report that YouTube agreed to host the movie. Sony also put out a list of about 300 theaters that would carry it on Christmas.

The movie will cost $6 to rent online and $15 to buy the digital version. It goes live at 1 p.m. today.

The computer attack on Sony started a month ago, with a group called Guardians of Peace threatening to release internal Sony Pictures documents until the company quashed the movie, a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

The emails that leaked embarassed Sony as they revealed personal communications from executives. Some emails were about Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie and Kevin Hart, and others touched industries like the tech sector. One email even came from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, because Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton sits on the startup's board.

Sony and theater chains buckled under the threat of more damning leaks and the promise of attacks at movie theaters if The Interview weren't totally silenced. The White House even got involved with President Barack Obama urging Sony not to give into the blackmail. The feds suspect that North Korea was behind the computer attack, causing an international crisis.

In the past few days, with the movie opening effectively blocked, Lynton had maintained that the company did not cave. Now there are other options for its release.

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