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

Thu Dec 25, 2014 3:13pm EST
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By Luc Cohen and Alicia Avila

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (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 (0330 ET) 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 by the group claiming responsibility for a destructive cyberattack on Sony last month. The United States blamed the attacks on North Korea.

Movie theater managers and patrons alike said they believed there was nothing to fear, and the initial screenings on Thursday were uneventful.

The audience at the first screening of the film in New York City, at the Cinema Village in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, remained silent during a scene showing the death of Kim Jong Un in the downing of his helicopter.

Matt Rosenzweig, 60, of Manhattan, said the moments that drew the most applause had to do with the idea of acting against censorship rather than animosity toward North Korea.

The film is available online in the United States on Google Inc's Google Play and YouTube Movie and to customers of Microsoft's Xbox Video, as well as on a Sony website, It can be seen in Canada on the Sony site and Google Canada's website.

A Sony spokeswoman on Thursday said she had no figures on the number of downloads so far or on how well the movie was doing at the box office.   Continued...

Matt Ornstein, dressed in a Santa Claus costume, holds an American flag as fans line up at the Silent Movie Theatre for a midnight screening of "The Interview" in Los Angeles, California December 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn