Sony Picture attacked by Russian hackers not North Korea
A man looks at The Interview's poster at the film's LA premiere. Reuters

Sony Pictures' controversial movie "The Interview" collected more than $1m in a limited Christmas Day release, and is expected to make several millions of dollars over the holiday weekend.

The James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy that is about a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un infuriated North Korea and triggered a sophisticated hacking attack on the studio, leaking huge troves of sensitive financial and corporate data.

Large movie theatre chains opted out of screening the movie as they received threats of violence from hackers. Sony had earlier decided to cancel the release of "The Interview", but later changed its mind after President Barack Obama criticised the decision.

The studio arranged a limited release in 331 small theatres on Christmas Day, and a video-on-demand rental option on YouTube, Google Play and other sites.

"The audience reaction was fantastic — the limited release, in under 10% of the amount of theatres originally planned, featured numerous sellouts and a first-day gross over $1 million," Sony Pictures worldwide distribution president Rory Bruer said in a statement.

The revenues from the online release of the movie are yet to be announced by the studio. Sony spent $44m (£28m, €36m) to produce the film along with several millions of dollars on marketing it.

Reuters earlier reported 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.

North Koreans are willing to pay almost $50 a copy of the movie, which is ten times higher than what a regular South Korean TV show's DVD would cost in the black market, according to Free North Korea Radio, an online radio network run by North Korean defectors.

The film has reportedly become a fast target for illegal downloads, as pirates planted it on several file-sharing sites with global access. The film has been accessed more than 750,000 times around the world in the first 20 hours, according to Torrent Freak.