UPDATE, FRIDAY 2:35 AM PT: After hitting torrent sites within an hour of being made legally available on Sony’s official partner platforms in the U.S. on Wednesday, The Interview was a fast target for illegal downloads. Torrent Freak has updated figures saying the film was accessed more than 750,000 times around the world in the first 20 hours. While it’s not clear if that includes statistics out of Asia, Reuters is now reporting that the film was viewed at least 300,000 times on one video sharing platform in China, and was also being seen in South Korea. The film’s international theatrical or VOD release plans are still unclear, but it was not scheduled to open in moviehouses anywhere in Asia.
China is North Korea’s most significant ally and according to Reuters, most of the viewers there said they watched The Interview out of curiosity following the crippling cyberattack against Sony. “It doesn’t matter whether the film is any good, it’s become something everyone has to see,” wrote one Weibo user.
If it hasn’t already happened, it could just be a matter of time before the film makes its way into North Korea whose Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is lampooned in the movie. Seo Jeong-nam, a film professor who researches North Korean propaganda at South Korea’s Keimyung University, recently told Bloomberg, “The biggest headache for Kim is that a memory stick the size of a fingertip can now go into the country carrying a dozen foreign-made films… North Koreans watching films smuggled from China has become an irreversible trend.”
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY 5:47 AM: With The Interview now officially available online in the U.S., pirates have illegally, however predictably, planted the film on several file-sharing sites with global access. According to TorrentFreak, the movie started appearing yesterday within an hour of being uploaded in the States to Sony’s official platform partners including YouTube, Google Play and XBox Video; but it was not available abroad. At the time of the report, at least 200,000 people had downloaded the controversial title within the first 10 hours and the number was rapidly growing.
The international theatrical rollout had been scheduled to begin in Iraq and Lebanon on Christmas Day with other markets joining in throughout January and February, before all release plans were initially scrapped. The current international status is unclear (although a look through today’s Beirut movie listings confirms no sign of the film).
Meanwhile, other copies may also have been circulated given tech issues at Kernel, the site powering the digital release in the U.S. According to The Verge, people who spent $5.99 to rent the movie over 48 hours were able to simply share the URL while an unprotected copy could also be saved. Kernel was working on a fix last night, it said.