Sony comedy The Interview opens

Media captionFilmgoer: "I came out to stand up for freedom of speech"

The controversial comedy The Interview has opened in some US cinemas and online, after a cyber-attack and threats to moviegoers over its release.

Sony Pictures had originally pulled the film, about a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But it reconsidered after critics - including the US president - said freedom of expression was under threat.

Some cinemas organised midnight showings for Americans determined to see The Interview on the big screen.

Several hundred independent cinemas across the US have come forward offering to show the title after larger cinemas decided not to screen it following threats.

Lee Peterson, manager of Cinema Village in New York, told Reuters news agency it was a matter of principle to show the film.

"Obviously we would like to make money from the movie, as we would with any movie, but it's important to take a stand about freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to see movies."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption North Korea says the film hurts the "dignity of its supreme leadership"

The film is also being offered through a dedicated website and via Google services YouTube and Play, and Microsoft's Xbox Video platform, but only in the US.

A spokesman for Sony told the BBC the release was US-only "at this point".

Sony Pictures initially pulled the film after suffering an unprecedented hacking attack at the hands of a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace.

Last week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said its analysis pointed the finger at North Korea. However, many cybersecurity experts have come forward to dispute this assertion.

North Korea denied being behind the attack but described it as a "righteous deed".

The hackers threatened to carry out a terrorist attack on cinemas showed the film on its scheduled release date of Christmas Day. After many cinemas pulled out, Sony cancelled the release.

That move was described by President Obama as a mistake.

Image copyright Reuters

Reaction in tweets

Maximus Clean - I loved #TheInterview and thought it was @Sethrogen and @JamesFrancoTV's finest movie yet. Good job!

Kira Craig - Just watched #TheInterview - pretty hilarious movie. Would expect nothing more from Seth Rogan and crew

Aimee Sanchez - Exercising my right as an American by watching #TheInterview @JamesFrancoTV @Sethrogen #MerryChristmas

DeAnna Sealtiel - #TheInterview was NOT worth the hype. Funny, but not worth the stress and aggravation that came along with it

Dan Field - Sony shouldn't have ever released #TheInterview, not because of the threat, but because the movie is terrible.

Aditya Basrur - Just watched #TheInterview. What a waste of money. Expected the movie to be much better.

Viewers react to seeing The Interview

Sony Chairman Michael Lynton said digital distribution had now been chosen to reverse some of that damage.

"It was essential for our studio to release this movie, especially given the assault upon our business and our employees by those who wanted to stop free speech.

"We chose the path of digital distribution first so as to reach as many people as possible on opening day, and we continue to seek other partners and platforms to further expand the release."

Media captionThe Interview screened at a small number of US cinemas

In a blog post announcing its involvement, Google's top lawyer David Drummond said the firm had weighed up the potential fallout.

"Last Wednesday Sony began contacting a number of companies, including Google, to ask if we'd be able to make their movie The Interview available online," Mr Drummond wrote.

"After discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be)."

The Interview saga

The Interview features James Franco and Seth Rogen as two journalists granted an audience with Mr Kim. The CIA then enlists the pair to assassinate him.

  • 22 November: Sony computer systems hacked, exposing embarrassing emails and personal details about stars
  • 7 December: North Korea denies accusations that it is behind the cyber-attack, but praises it as a "righteous deed"
  • 16 December: "Guardians of Peace" hacker group threatens 9/11-type attack on cinemas showing film; New York premiere cancelled
  • 17 December: Leading US cinema groups say they will not screen film; Sony cancels Christmas Day release
  • 19 December: FBI concludes North Korea orchestrated hack; President Obama calls Sony cancellation "a mistake"
  • 20 December: North Korea proposes joint inquiry with US into hacks, rejected by the US
  • 22 December: North Korea suffers a severe internet outage; US authorities decline to comment
  • 23 December: Sony bosses appear to change their minds, saying they will now give The Interview a limited Christmas Day release
  • 25 December: The Interview is shown in some US cinemas and released online

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