WRAPUP 6-Sony's 'Interview' draws U.S. moviegoers who trumpet free speech

Fri Dec 26, 2014 1:25am EST
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(Adds Asian viewers watch movie on illegal video sharing sites)

By Luc Cohen and Alicia Avila

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES Dec 25 (Reuters) - "The Interview," the Sony Pictures film about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, opened in more than 300 movie theaters across the United States on Christmas Day, drawing many sell-out audiences and statements by patrons that they were championing freedom of expression.

Co-directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, who also co-stars in the low-brow comedy with James Franco, surprised moviegoers by appearing at the sold-out 12:30 a.m. PT (0830 GMT) screening of the movie at a theater in Los Angeles, where they briefly thanked fans for their support.

Sony Pictures this week backtracked from its original decision to cancel the release of the $44 million film after major U.S. theater chains pulled out because of threats of violence by Guardians of Peace, a computer hacking group that claimed responsibility for a destructive cyberattack on Sony last month.

The United States blamed the attacks on North Korea.

In China and South Korea, two countries that share a land border with North Korea, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to illegal video sharing sites to see the movie.

In the United States, movie theater managers and patrons alike said they believed there was nothing to fear from the threats, and the initial screenings on Thursday were uneventful.

But one of the online outlets that distributed the film ahead of its theatrical release, Microsoft Corp's Xbox Live, reported that users were experiencing problems getting connected on Thursday.   Continued...