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Sony Pictures received a lot of public criticism, from the Obama Administration and the public, for its decision to pull "The Interview" from theaters ahead of its Christmas release. The company decided to push ahead and release the movie in a smaller number of theaters, while heavily pushing online rentals and sales.
There are now questions as to whether movie studios should begin offering movies directly to the Internet from day one - while also screening movies in theaters. It's not going to be an overnight change, as movie theaters still help produce increased revenue per viewer than online rentals or sales, industry figures indicate. However, this could help spur interest in movies from viewers that otherwise wouldn't go through the trouble of seeing a movie in theater.
"The floodgates are now open for digital distribution," said Roger Kay, technology analyst and founder of Endpoint Technologies Associates, in a statement published by the San Francisco Chronicle. "Yes, these were special circumstances, but they allowed the world to see there's no reason not to stream on day one. I think it will change movie distribution ever."
"The Interview" might prove to be popular among Western movie watchers, but is no laughing matter for defectors that successfully escaped North Korea.
Following Sony's decision to release the movie after all, the community of 20,000+ North Korean defectors living in South Korea were quick to watch it. However, they seemed unimpressed with the crude humor that is laced throughout the movie, despite mentions of concentration camps, rampant starvation, and an overly-controlling government regime.
"Every defector I know has seen the movie," said Kim Sung-Min, a defector that created the anti-Pyongyang Free North Korea Radio Station, in a statement to the media. "We've talked a lot about this flick over the past week, and we simply did not understand why it gives foreigners laughs."
Sony Pictures announced it is spreading release of "The Interview" to In Demand, a premium pay-per-view network that includes customers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, PlayStation Network, and other major carriers. Even with increased interest among Internet users to illegally pirate the movie, "The Interview" still appears to be racking up strong online rentals and purchases - which is why additional partners wanted to jump onboard.
Considering it wasn't long ago when Sony Pictures announced it would pull the movie from theaters - and online release also seemed in jeopardy - it's good to see the film hit additional markets. "We have always sought the widest possible distribution for "The Interview," and want to thank our new partners for helping us make that happen," said Michael Lynton, Sony Entertainment CEO, in a press statement.
Sony Pictures still hasn't outlined international release schedule for the film, but an announcement is expected to take place sometime in the near future.
Microsoft plans to phase out sales of the original Kinect for Windows sensor starting in 2015, after shipping the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor and 2.0 software development kit (SDK) in late 2014.
Kinect users spend $199 to invest in a hands-free motion sensor system that allows them to interact with games, productivity tools and apps, using gestures or voice. However, the Kinect SDK 2.0 allows developers to create Windows Store Kinect-enabled apps, and use the Kinect Adapter for Windows to use the Xbox One sensor and still develop Windows apps.
"The original Kinect for Windows sensor was a milestone achievement in the world of natural human computing," Microsoft wrote in the blog. "It allowed developers to create solutions that broke through the old barriers of mouse and keyboard interactions, opening up entirely new commercial experiences in multiple industries, including retail, education, healthcare, education, and manufacturing."
The "Wolf of Wall Street" was the most illegally pirated movie of 2014 with 30 million downloads, while "Frozen" took the No. 2 spot, racking up 29.919 downloads million torrent downloads during 2014. Despite being No. 2 on the list, "Frozen" racked up $1.2 billion dollars in the movie theater box office, according to Box Office Mojo.
"RoboCop," including the 1987 original and 2014 remake, took the No. 3 spot with 29.89 million, "Gravity" had 29.357 million downloads, and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" collected 27.627 million downloads throughout the year.
Even though movie studios and copyright groups are desperately trying to clamp down on Internet piracy - with varying levels of support from national governments - Internet piracy is still alive and well.
In what must be a public relations nightmare for the government in Pyongyang, a growing number of North Koreans are not only aware of Sony Pictures' "The Interview" - but want to view the movie. The North Korean State Security Department and The Ministry of People's Security collaborated in a meeting to try to limit how the movie is able to enter the country.
There are reports of North Korean citizens interested in paying upwards of $50 for a copy of "The Interview," a significantly higher price than other movies available on the black market. North Korean officials have increased border security, and have instructed handlers of black market materials to avoid US material.
"Think of the movie as Chernobyl for the digital age," wrote Rich Klein, from the McLarty Associates advisory firm, in a Washington Post statement. "Just as the nuclear catastrophe in the Soviet Union and the dangerously clumsy efforts to hide it exposed the Kremlin's leadership as inept and morally bankrupt, overseeing a superpower rusting from the inside, so does 'The Interview' risk eroding the myths, fabrications and bluster that keep the Kim dynasty in power."
Popular HBO show "Game of Thrones" maintained its spot as the most pirated TV show of the year, topping the list for the third consecutive year. The shows was downloaded an estimated 8.1 million times throughout the year via BitTorrent, and has topped "The Sopranos" as the most-watched HBO show ever made.
"Game of Thrones" also set a record when 254,114 users downloaded and shared the same torrent file.
"The Walking Dead" had an estimated 4.2 million downloads while "Breaking Bad" rounded out the No. 3 spot as the most pirated TV show, collecting 3.6 million downloads.
Sony Pictures originally pulled "The Interview" from theaters, bowing to terrorist threats issued by the Guardians of Peace, but is looking for different online methods to distribute the controversial movie. It's possible Sony could release the movie on the Crackle online streaming video service, as a way for interested fans to watch the movie.
"Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed," said David Boies, Sony attorney. "How it's going to be distributed, I don't think anybody knows quite yet. But it's going to be distributed."
The entire Sony Pictures drama has taken many peculiar turns, and CEO Michael Lynton admitted the company has struggled to find streaming or video-on-demand distribution partners. However, BitTorrent is willing to help Sony Pictures share The Interview, though sharing it on Crackle could also be extremely effective - as social media will certainly help drive viewers to the movie.
If Sony Pictures truly doesn't want to release "The Interview" into theaters, BitTorrent would be more than happy to help the studio share its controversial movie. BitTorrent says its BitTorrent Bundle service would be a legal method for the movie to be distributed, instead of releasing the film to online video sites and via pirated torrenting.
"Though we normally would not offer commentary during such a trying time for another company, the answer is yes," BitTorrent officials said in a statement. "BitTorrent Bundle is in fact the very best way for Sony to take back control of their film, to not acquiescence to terrorist threats, and to ensure a wide audience can view the film safely. It would also strike a strong note for free speech."
After Sony decided to pull the movie - a decision which it is second-guessing, while considering still releasing the movie - there has been a large amount of criticism. Pres. Obama said Sony made the wrong decision, while Hollywood actors also heavily criticized the decision.
AMC Theatres has partnered with MoviePass to launch a pilot theater subscription service that will allow subscribers to see movies for a monthly fee, instead of per screening. The standard MoviePass subscription allows for one movie per day in 2D for $35 per month, while the MoviePass Premium costs $45 per month and allows for one movie per day in any presentation format.
The trial will launch in Boston and Denver starting in early 2015, the companies said in a press release.
"This is the first time a premium level subscription service has been launched in the U.S. and marks a significant step forward by offering passionate movie lovers the premium sight and sound experiences available in movie theatres," said Stacy Spikes, MoviePass CEO and co-founder, in a press statement.