In a reversal of its position from a week ago, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Tuesday that the film “The Interview” will have a limited theatrical release beginning Thursday.
“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” Sony Entertainment Chairman/CEO Michael Lynton said. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”
Last Wednesday, Sony announced it was canceling the film’s release due to threats posted online by a hacking group claiming responsibility for a massive cyberattack on the Culver City studio. Federal authorities have since confirmed that North Korea was behind the cyberattack in retaliation for “The Interview,” a Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy focused on an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Sony faced immediate backlash in Hollywood over its decision, with many accusing the theater of caving to the demands of the hackers at the expense of freedom of expression. Even President Barack Obama said he thought the studio made a mistake by pulling the film, saying, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said today Obama “applauds” the studio’s decision to release the film.
“As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression,” Schultz said. “The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome.”
Sony officials insisted they had no choice in originally canceling the planned Christmas Day release, because major theater chains across the country had announced they would not show the film in response to the threats. The company has insisted in recent days that they always intended for the film to eventually be released, but they had to delay the planned Thursday opening.
“I want to thank our talent on ‘The Interview’ and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month,” Lynton said today. “While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
Rogen and Franco both took to Twitter to praise the decision to release the film.
“The people have spoken!” Rogen wrote on his Twitter page. “Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! ‘The Interview’ will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!”
Franco also hailed the decision, writing, “VICTORY!!!!!!!,” and adding, “CELEBRATING!!!!! ‘The Interview’ starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco saved by President Obacco,” a satiric reference to Obama’s mispronunciation of Franco’s name last week.
In its online threat last week, the hacking group “Guardians of Peace” warned of 9/11-like attacks on theaters that showed “The Interview.”
After Sony initially announced the film would not be released on Christmas, the group sent an email to top Sony executives threatening that it would release more private data stolen in the cyberattack if “The Interview” is ever leaked or released in any way.
“We will ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble,” the email read, according to CNN. “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
Laemmle Theatres stated on Twitter that it had “other film commitments” on Christmas, but the film is expected to open on Dec. 31 in North Hollywood.
Vintage Cinemas has scheduled four showings — 1:30, 4:15, 7 and 9:50 p.m. — on Thursday at its Los Feliz theater, 1822 N. Vermont Ave. According to its website, Regency Theatres plans to show the film at its cinemas in Azusa, Agoura Hills, Granada Hills, Commerce, Van Nuys, Westminster, Perris and Riverside.
The nonprofit group Cinefamily quickly posted on Twitter that it would like to show the film at The Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.