Sony Pictures Entertainment has reversed its controversial decision to scrap screenings of the Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, according to a statement from the company's CEO.
"We have never given up on releasing The Interview and we're excited our movie will be in a number of theatres on Christmas Day," Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton said in a statement Tuesday.
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"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."
A Sony spokesperson told Reuters Tuesday evening that the film will be playing in more than 200 theatres throughout the United States.
Seth Rogen reacts
Rogen, the Vancouver-born comedian who wrote and stars in the film that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, took to Twitter to express his relief.
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!— @Sethrogen
"The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn't give up!" said Rogen, who remained uncharacteristically silent through the hacking saga, which included the release of his private emails with Sony executives.
Co-star James Franco, also tweeted his excitement. "VICTORY!!!!!!!" wrote the actor before posting a photo of what appears to show Franco and Rogen open-mouth kissing.
Victory for U.S. indie chains
News of the reversal came midday Tuesday when the founder of an American independent movie chain declared "victory" online.
"We are making shows available within the hour," tweeted Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema before listings for The Interview began popping up on line.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is an independent movie chain founded in Austin, Texas, with theatres in many states, including New York, California and Arizona.
Atlanta's Plaza Theater in Georgia also said it will show the film.
It's not clear if there are any plans to release the movie in Canada.
U.S. president pleased
Sony Pictures announced last week it had called off the scheduled release of the North Korea satire following hacker threats of violence against theatres showing the film.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Sony "made a mistake" when it pulled the film amid the intimidation that investigators have blamed on North Korea.
On Tuesday, Obama applauded the entertainment company's decision to go ahead with its release.
"The president applauds Sony's decision to authorize screenings of the film," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.
"As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theatres allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome," Schultz said.
A limited release could potentially be followed by expansion into larger multiplex chains, a rollout that has been used in the past for controversial films including Zero Dark Thirty. America's top chains — Regal, AMC and Cinemark — didn't immediate comment Tuesday.
North Korea has suffered sweeping internet outages in an apparent attack Monday that followed Obama's vows of a response to what he called North Korea's "cyber vandalism."
The White House and State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible.
Just the beginning
Releasing The Interview would be Sony's first step in moving forward from the massive cyberattack that saw embarrassing private emails leaked to the media, personal employee data revealed and previously unreleased movies disseminated online.
Sony also has to deal with pending litigation.
It faces six lawsuits by 10 ex-employees who claim the company violated California privacy laws by not securing their personal, financial and medical information.
The cases all seek class-action status and want to draw in the nearly 50,000 current and ex-employees whose private info was stolen and posted online.
Sony has not responded to the lawsuits, which seek monetary damages as well as a requirement that the studio pay for credit monitoring and repair services for the next several years.