After weeks of controversy, threats, and public relations disasters, James Franco and Seth Rogen's much-hyped film The Interview will debut in select theaters across the country on Christmas Day after all.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company behind the movie, confirmed in a statement Tuesday that The Interview will have a "limited theatrical release" in the US on December 25.
Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, said in a statement that the company was working to ensure that more platforms and theaters would be available to screen the film in order to reach "the largest possible audience."
"We have never given up on releasing The Interview and we're excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day," Lynton said. "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."
Following the announcement, Seth Rogen expressed his satisfaction with the news, writing on Twitter that "Freedom has prevailed!"
The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn't give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen)December 23, 2014
The news initially broke when theaters — one in Atlanta and an Austin, Texas-based chain — both said they received permission from Sony to screen the film. Tim League, who runs the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, took to Twitter to announce the authorization from Sony, saying the theater would be "making shows available within the hour."
Originally set to have its premier on the holiday, the entertainment company cancelled plans for a theatrical release last week. The decision was made in light of threats from hackers and a scandal that saw Sony's confidential information disseminated to the public. The leak included embarrassing emails from executives — including several disparaging the quality of the movie about American journalists who travel to North Korea to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un.
The leaked emails revealed internal discussions between international executives about how the film would do abroad, whether it would be received well by China and other countries, and if the final scene showing Kim Jong-un's fiery death was too violent. In addition to publicly sharing these conversations, the hackers — who the FBI has alleged are backed by North Korea — threatened movie theaters that show the film with 9/11-style attacks.
Sony's move to cancel The Interview's theatrical release drew widespread criticism, most notably from President Barack Obama, who called the decision to pull the film "a mistake."
"If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like," Obama said.
Lynton struck back against the president's comments, saying he disagreed with the notion that it was a mistake.
"I don't know exactly whether he understands the sequence of events that led up to the movie not being shown in the movie theaters," Lynton said in an interview with CNN.
While the controversy over The Interview unfolded last week, governments from both countries have had a back-and-forth regarding who was responsible for the cyber attack. Pyongyang has steadfastly denied having any role, but FBI — citing unspecified evidence — has continued to say otherwise.
"North Korea's actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a US business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves," the FBI said in a statement. "Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior."
In an official statement Tuesday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Obama "applauds" Sony's decision to release the The Interview.
"As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression," Schultz said. "The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome."
Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB