NEW YORK — Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Tuesday a limited theatrical release of "The Interview" beginning Thursday, putting back into the theaters the comedy that prompted an international incident with North Korea and outrage over its cancelled release.
Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said Tuesday that Seth Rogen's North Korea farce "will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day." He said Sony also is continuing its efforts to release the film on more platforms and in more theaters.
"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," said Lynton.
Moviegoers celebrated the abrupt change of fortune for a film that appeared doomed, as "The Interview" began popping up in the listings of a handful of independent theaters Tuesday, including the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas and Atlanta's Plaza Theater.
"The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn't give up!" said Rogen on Twitter.
Rogen, who stars in the film he co-directed with Evan Goldberg, hadn't made any public comments throughout the surreal ordeal that began with hackers leaking Sony emails and culminated in a confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea.
North Korea suffered sweeping Internet outages in an apparent attack Monday that followed vows from President Barack Obama of a response to what he called North Korea's "cyber vandalism" of Sony. The White House and State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible.
After hackers last Wednesday threatened violence against theaters showing the film, the nation's largest theater chains dropped "The Interview." Sony soon thereafter canceled the film's release altogether and removed mention of it from its websites.
But that decision drew widespread criticism, including from Obama, who chastised Sony for what he deemed "a mistake" that went against American principles of free speech.
Independent theaters had shown a stronger appetite to screen "The Interview," after chains like Regal, AMC and Cinemark pulled the film. Art House Convergence, which represents independent exhibitors, sent a letter Monday to Sony saying its theaters (comprising about 250 screens) wished to show the film.