In what some have hailed as a victory for freedom of expression, “The Interview,” a controversial film about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was released Thursday in over 300 movie theaters across the United States. Sony Pictures Entertainment had earlier decided to pull it from theaters following threats from a hackers group, which had launched a massive cyberattack against it in November.
Thanks in large part to all the attention the movie received from the hackers' threat, with even President Barack Obama weighing in on the issue, the comedy flick drew fans as well as curious moviegoers, who lined up outside theaters to check out what the fuss was all about. Although critics and early viewers were reportedly not highly impressed by “The Interview,” the real-life drama surrounding the movie’s release created the right kind of buzz to help it play to packed theaters nationwide.
Some viewers also watched it to make a point to the hackers as well as North Korea for its alleged support of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures’ systems for producing the film. While hundreds of theaters made special holiday arrangements for the movie’s release, patrons said that the initial screenings on Thursday were uneventful, Reuters reported.
“We are taking a stand for freedom,” theater manager Lee Peterson of the Cinema Village East in Manhattan, told The Associated Press (AP). “We want to show the world that Americans will not be told what we can or cannot watch. Personally, I am not afraid.”
Security was light at many theaters across the U.S. as government officials dismissed any possibility of violence and the Department of Homeland Security released a statement stating that there were no credible threats. However, the FBI shared security information with independent movie theater owners to educate them about cybersecurity threats, AP reported.
Meanwhile, Kim Song, a North Korean diplomat to the United Nations, denounced the movie’s release on Wednesday, criticizing it as an “unpardonable mockery of our sovereignty and dignity of our supreme leader.”
“The Interview,” which was initially planned for a wider release on as many as 3,000 screens, was also made available to U.S. viewers through Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a separate Sony website.
While Sony Pictures has not released any official figures on the number of downloads for the movie, co-directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, media reports claimed that the James Franco-starrer has been illegally downloaded over 200,000 times on Bit Torrent sites.