In plot reversal, Sony sends 'The Interview' to 200 theaters

Tue Dec 23, 2014 9:15pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey and David Brunnstrom

LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sony Pictures will allow "The Interview" to play in more than 200 U.S. theaters as of Christmas Day, reversing its decision to pull the film, after coming under criticism from President Barack Obama and others for caving into pressure from North Korea.

The White House praised Sony's about-face, which the studio said would result in "a limited theatrical release" of the film, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco and is about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

"The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome," presidential spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.

It was another surprising twist in a saga that started four weeks ago, when a massive cyberattack now blamed on North Korea crippled the Hollywood studio. The hacking has grown into a geopolitical headache and a global symbol of attacks on free expression.

On Friday, Obama had called Sony's decision to pull the $44 million movie a mistake, suggesting it could set a precedent in which "some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States."

Congressional Republicans and Democrats, as well as Hollywood luminaries such as George Clooney, had also assailed the canceled release, with some accusing the studio of self-censorship.

Franco and Rogen, who also co-directed the film, broke their silence after Sony made the announcement.

"The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed!" Rogen said, while Franco added, "VICTORY!!!!!!! The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken!!!"   Continued...

General Manager Brandon Delaney looks up at the marquee sign after the announcement that the Plaza Theatre would be showing the movie  "The Interview" beginning Christmas Day in Atlanta, December 23, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell