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Despite a high-quality screener version of "American Sniper" hitting the Internet days before the film's box office release, the movie still grossed $90.2 million from Friday to Sunday - the most successful opening weekend between December and February.
It's hard to estimate what role piracy could have had on the box office, as some viewers likely skipped the theater when they found the online version. However, it is possible people impressed after watching the film used word-of-mouth to help tell friends and family how good the movie is.
The film features Bradley Cooper portraying Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and most prolific sniper in US military history, and Sienna Miller serving as Kyle's wife. Kyle survived four tours of service in Iraq, and was murdered on a Texas gun range by a fellow veteran. The Clint Eastwood-directed film has generated a high amount of controversy, though has the support of Kyle's wife and military members.
Amazon has earned early success from its unique TV productions, and plans to transition towards movies. After a movie is released in theaters, Amazon wants to make sure the title is available via Prime video service within two months.
The company plans to create "close" to twelve movies per year, and production will begin later in 2015. The idea of a film being available online within eight weeks, as opposed to 39 to 52 weeks, gives viewers a chance to watch movies much sooner.
"Audiences already recognize that Amazon has raised the bar with productions in the episodic realm, tackling bold material in unique ways and collaborating with top talent, both established and emerging," said Ted Hope, Head of Production for Amazon Original Movies, in a statement. "Amazon Original Movies will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite, and move our fans, wherever customers watch. I am incredibly thrilled to be part of this."
Police authorities in Myanmar are seizing pirated copies of "The Interview," per an official request by the North Korean embassy.
"We seized them because they were unapproved and pirated," according to a police officer speaking to Reuters.
Rangoon chief minister Mying Swe spoke with North Korean Ambassador Kim Sok Choi, and they both deny official orders to seize pirated copies of the film. Shortly after the meeting, the film disappeared from DVD stalls in Yangyon, with stall owners claiming the film was now banned.
The lure of cord cutting is appealing to consumers interested in dropping cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of online video services. The addition of the Dish Network Sling TV further disrupts the market, a $20 per month service that gives users the chance to watch ESPN, CNN and other popular channels without a traditional subscription.
In addition to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and similar services, HBO, CBS, and ESPN plan to provide online offerings without a traditional pay TV subscription.
Pay TV subscriber levels have gone down and we expect that trend to continue," said David Heger, senior analyst at Edward Jones, in a statement to Forbes. "The cable TV model has been phenomenally lucrative for content producers," as "networks like HBO are looking to expand by capturing some of those households with no pay TV service."
"The Interview" has racked up $31 million in on-demand and digital sales, closing in on the $41 million it cost to create the film. The movie was released online on Christmas Eve, and while it was an instant hit among Internet pirates, has also generated impressive sales and rental figures from paid users.
The controversial movie racked up $15 million in sales during the four days it was released, and continues to generate success. Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and cable video on-demand services now offer the movie for rental and sale.
"The Interview" will receive a UK release in the future, Sony noted, and it appears Netflix want access to the film. Just a few days after the movie was released, there was talk as to whether or not the film could help spur same-day online launches for future Hollywood films.
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.