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In reversal, ‘The Interview’ to play in US, Boston

Move to release film follows outcry on free speech

The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta is one theater that will show the comedy. In the Boston area, Apple Cinemas will screen it.ERIK S. LESSER/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

“The Interview” is back on, in the Boston area and across the country, as Sony Pictures on Tuesday reversed an earlier decision to scrap showings of the controversial movie entirely.

Sony announced that the James Franco/Seth Rogen comedy — in which the pair play American newsmen who become involved in a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — will be screened in a limited number of theaters on Christmas Day. Screenings had been canceled last week after threats suggesting 9/11-like violence.

“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview,’ ” Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton said in a statement announcing the film’s release. “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.” Sony did not publicly state why it changed course, and Sony representatives did not return calls asking for comment.

Apple Cinemas in Cambridge will be the only theater in the Boston area screening “The Interview” on its scheduled Christmas Day opening.

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The Somerville Theatre in Davis Square also plans to show the movie but not right away.

Sony’s initial decision to cancel the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview” came after increasingly hostile threats from Guardians of Peace, a group that had earlier claimed responsibility for hacking the company’s servers. Last week, federal authorities attributed the hacking to the North Korean government.

President Obama on Friday had called Sony’s decision to cancel the opening “a mistake,” unfavorably comparing the company’s actions with Boston’s resilience after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

“We can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack, any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm,” Obama said.

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Sony’s decision to release the film after all met with approval from Obama.

“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” a statement released by the White House said Tuesday. “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 theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome.”

The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta is one theater that will show the comedy. In the Boston area, Apple Cinemas will screen it.Erik S. Lesser/EPA/EPA

With Sony’s move, Apple Cinemas, a 10-screen Fresh Pond cinema, is preparing for a wave of curious moviegoers.

Apple Cinemas employee Dan Madani said Tuesday that a “deluge” of interest in the movie had caused the theater’s online ticketing system to crash but that it should be up and running Wednesday. In the interim, people had been visiting the cinema to pick up tickets.

“Because of the fervor around the movie,” he said, “it’ll probably be here for a while.”

The Somerville Theatre in Davis Square is planning January screenings.

“We’ll gladly play it at Somerville on the week starting Jan. 2,” Ian Judge, director of operations for the theater’s parent company, FEI Theatres, told the Globe via e-mail. “But our Christmas bookings were already set [and] ad copy sent out . . . so a last-minute change was not possible.”

Major chains such as AMC and Regal, which had canceled opening-day screenings at local cinemas before Sony Pictures pulled the plug on the film, have not said whether they would show “The Interview.”

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Other local independent cinemas, including the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge and the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, told the Globe they would not be showing the movie, citing schedule and space constraints.

In Providence, the Cable Car Cinema & Cafe hopes to start screening the movie Friday evening. Owner Daniel Kamil told the Globe that Sony had sent the film to the theater, and he was “95 percent” sure they would be able to hold screenings as planned.

Reports that “The Interview” would be available for home viewing through video on demand services had not been confirmed at press time.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Franco and Rogen celebrated the film’s release via social media.

“The people have spoken!” Rogen, who codirected and cowrote the movie, tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!”

Franco posted a picture of himself and his costar on Instagram captioned, “VICTORY!!!!!!! The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken!!! SONY to release THE INTERVIEW in theaters on XMAS DAY!”

Across the country, theaters announcing plans to show “The Interview” were mostly independent cinemas and members of regional chains. Tim League, founder and chief executive of the Texas-based movie chain Alamo Drafthouse, announced on Twitter that his movie houses would hold Christmas Day screenings of “The Interview,” and other theaters around the country followed suit over the course of the day.

Maura Johnston can be reached at maura.johnston@
globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @maura.