Still of James Franco and Seth Rogen in ‘The Interview.’ Photo credit: Ed Araquel/CTMG, Inc

“The Interview” earned a record $15 million in its chaotic online debut, setting a record, Sony Pictures Entertainment said.

The movie, given a strong thumbs down by Pyongyang and the subject of an unprecedented Internet attack, was downloaded 2 million times since Christmas Day. It did about $2.8 million in business at the small number of independent theaters that showed it, according to Sony.

At the movieplexes, the latest Hobbitt movie edged out “Unbroken” to regain the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office.

On Christmas Day itself, the Angelina Jolie-directed biopic “Unbroken” topped the North American box office, just ahead of the musical “Into the Woods.” But once the Friday-Saturday-Sunday total were added up, “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies” had eased back into the No. 1 spot, with an estimated $41.4 million in U.S. and Canadian sales.

“Unbroken” was second this weekend, with an estimated $31.7 million in cash registers. Another Christmas Day opener, “Into The Woods,” was third this weekend with $31 million in estimated ticket sales.

Ben Stiller’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” was fourth with $20 million, and the remake of “Annie: stood fifth at $16.6 million.

Several big movies opened in limited release this week in Los Angeles and other select markets, to qualify for Academy Awards consideration and generate word-of-mouth buzz. “American Sniper” drew heavy crowds in just four theaters, and “Selma” opened in 19 theaters, Rentrak reported.

“The Interview” was shown in 331 theaters, earning about $1.8 million this weekend. It has brought in about $2.8 million since Christmas Day theatrically, and an unknown amount via the Internet pay-per-view channels.

Rounding out the top 10 films this weekend, as reported by the studios and gathered by Rentrak, were “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” ($10 million), “The Gambler” ($9.3 million), “The Imitation Game” ($7.9 million), “Exodus: Gods and Kings” ($6.8 million) and “Wild” ($5.4 million).

— City News Service

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