On the heels of a $1 million-plus Christmas Day launch for “The Interview,” Sony Pictures’ top distribution executive has thanked moviegoers for their support of the controversy-laden political comedy.

“Considering the incredibly challenging circumstances, we are extremely grateful to the people all over the country who came out to experience ‘The Interview’ on the first day of its unconventional release,” said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures, in a statement Friday morning.

“The audience reaction was fantastic — the limited release, in under 10% of the amount of theaters originally planned, featured numerous sellouts and a first-day gross over $1 million.”

“The Interview” finished in 15th place for Christmas Day and played at 331 independent theaters in the U.S., following more than a month of intensive news coverage — starting with a massive cyber-attack on Sony, a Dec. 16 threat by hackers to launch a 9/11-style attack on theaters showing the movie, the studio’s decision to withdraw the movie on Dec. 17 and an about-face six days later.

The hacker threat of attacks on theaters — which the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security had said last week was not credible — failed to materialize.

The opening day numbers for “The Interview” were impressive given that Sony launched a VOD release of the film on Wednesday morning via YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own http://www.seetheinterview.com site. Major chains such as AMC, Regal and Carmike are refusing to book “The Interview” due to the VOD release.

As a result, “The Interview” wound up playing in smaller venues, and its per screen average for the day came in around $3,000. By comparison, Disney’s “Into the Woods” took in about double that per-screen total as the musical played particularly well in big-city multiplexes.

Overall Christmas Day business was better than expected on three titles — Universal’s “Unbroken” with $15.6 million at 3,131 sites; Disney’s “Into the Woods” with $15.1 million at 2,440; and New Line-MGM’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” with $13.6 million at 3,875.

All three are likely to wind up with at least $40 million each for the four-day Christmas weekend.

Angelina Jolie’s war drama “Unbroken” notched the third highest Christmas Day opening in history and the highest Thursday Christmas Day opening.