Sony Pictures Entertainment said Tuesday it will release "The Interview" in select theaters on Christmas Day, an abrupt reversal after the movie company said last week it would shelve the controversial satire indefinitely.
"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," Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, said in a statement. "At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience."
Independent movie theaters based in Austin, Atlanta and Scottsdale, Arizona, confirmed Tuesday they plan to be among the first in the nation to screen the comedy, which depicts a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
A Sony spokesperson said later on Tuesday that the movie would be seen in more than 200 theaters.
Sony decided to shelve the movie last Wednesday after some of the nation's largest movie theater chains said they wouldn't carry the Seth Rogan-James Franco flick in the aftermath of hackers saying they would threaten theaters showing the comedy.
The FBI said North Korea was behind the hack on Sony's internal computers, and Hollywood and the White House criticized the company's decision to yank the movie. President Obama said at a news conference last Friday that he thought it was "a mistake" not to release it.
A White House spokesman said Tuesday that Obama is applauding Sony's sudden about-face: "As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression," said spokesman Eric Schultz. "The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome."
One of the movie houses, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, which is based in Austin, told NBC News it was releasing a schedule of showtimes for "The Interview." The chain has 19 theater locations, including in Texas, Virginia, California and Yonkers, New York.
Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League said Sony approved screenings of the film at art house and independent theaters on Tuesday morning after listening to the public response. "This is the best Christmas gift anyone could give us," League said in a statement. "We, both distributors and exhibitors, have collectively stood firm to our principles and for the right to freedom of expression. Two days til Christmas, and I am proud to be an American."
Another movie house — the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta — said it will screen "The Interview" on two screens beginning Christmas Day. The Harkins Theatres chain said it will be showing the movie at its Tempe location.
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