LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Less than a week after Sony pulled "The Interview" from theaters, the studio has reversed itself and set a limited theatrical release in the United States on Christmas Day.
"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," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment 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."
"I want to thank our talent on 'The Interview' and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month. 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."
The news broke Tuesday with select exhibitors announcing Christmas Day screenings of the controversial James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy, with the Plaza Atlantatheater and Alamo Drafthouse announcing via social media that Sony Pictures has authorized them to show the film despite major exhibitors cancelling screenings in the wake of a cyber-attack that debilitated the studio.
There was also growing speculation that the studio will offer the film via VOD.
Sony had flatly stated on Dec. 17 that there were "no further release plans" but has been backing away from that assertion since then -- particularly following PresidentObama's declaration two days later that the studio had "made a mistake" in failing to release the film.
Lynton stated in an interview with CNN on Friday that no on-demand providers had stepped forward to offer to handle the VOD release, but that may have changed in the past few days with the intense media coverage of "The Interview" situation. While a number of major theater chains have expressed displeasure at Sony for shifting the blame to them in the decision to pull "The Interview" from wide release, a group of independent exhibitors reiterated that they were willing to show the film in an open letter to Lynton and studio president Amy Pascal published Monday. A New York theater is also planning a live read of the film's screenplay for Dec. 27.
The FBI on Friday said it believed North Korea was behind the hack attack on Sony Pictures in retaliation for the comedy that involves the assassination of the nation's leader, Kim Jong-un. Later in the day, President Obama criticized Sony's decision to pull the film's planned Dec. 25 release after hacker org Guardians of Peace threatened violence against theaters that showed the pic.
"The Interview" imbroglio has sparked a national discussion about freedom of expression and the dangers of cyber warfare in the digital age.