Sony Pictures is cautiously backing off on its ban of screenings of The Interview.
The entertainment giant will allow a limited number of Christmas Day screenings by independent theatres of its controversial spy comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, despite threats of 9/11-style terror attacks from a hacker group called Guardians of Peace.
The group, reportedly backed by North Korea, objects to the film’s depiction of the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Word of the change of heart by Sony was greeted as an early Christmas present and victory for freedom of speech rights.
“Breaking news: Sony has authorized screenings of The Interview on Christmas Day. We are making shows available within the hour. #Victory,” tweeted Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse independent theatre chain in the U.S., who had been circulating a petition against the ban.
This was soon followed by a confirmation from The Plaza theatre in Atlanta that it, too, “will be one of the few theatres in the nation to open the film.”
Sony has yet to issue an official statement, and it’s unclear how many theatres are involved and whether any Canadian ones are among them. Also unclear was whether the screenings would extend past Christmas Day.
But it appears the company is bowing to widespread criticism, including a blast from U.S. President Barack Obama, that it was caving in to terrorism when it announced last week it was shelving plans for a Christmas Day rollout of The Interview in thousands of North American theatres.
League says in his petition that he knows the Guardians of Peace may try to make good on their threats to bomb theatres showing The Interview, but freedom of speech is worth the risk.
“We understand there are risks involved in screening The Interview. We will communicate these risks as clearly as we can to our employees and customers and allow them to make their own decisions, as is the right of every American.”
Major film exhibitors, including Canada’s Cineplex Entertainment, had vowed not to show The Interview because of the terrorist threats.