U.S.-based Sony Pictures has reversed its position on a controversial movie that inspired a cyberattack the United States said was carried out by North Korea.
Sony said "The Interview," a movie parody about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, would open in dozens of theaters December 25. Theaters in at least two dozen states now say they will show the movie.
Sony announced last week that it would not show the movie in theaters after its computers were hacked by unknown attackers who threatened more damage if the film was released as scheduled.
Hollywood celebrities spoke out on sites like Twitter against Sony’s initial decision. Even President Barack Obama joined the criticism of Sony, though he saved his harshest words for North Korea.
“Somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie," the president said. "Imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.”
The White House said Tuesday that Obama applauded Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film.
Sony Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said Tuesday that the company was proud "to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech" and hopes "this is only the first step of the film's release."
Political scientist Stanley Rosen of the University of Southern California, who studies Asian cinema, saw "The Interview" at a Hollywood preview.
“It’s funny at a certain level," he said. "At the same time, you can see why it would be so offensive to North Koreans — and not just North Koreans, but perhaps Asians in general.”
Rosen said the film is a parody of a humorless government and an insecure leader who is worried about regime change, and the North Koreans "are convinced that that’s the major goal of the United States. This is why they want some treaty where the United States will acknowledge that they accept the leadership in North Korea. So we know that much about North Korea, and this film is all about that."
Regardless of who was behind the Sony breach, corporations are increasingly the target of sophisticated hackers, said Fengmin Gong of the high-tech security company Cyphort.
“It’s no longer the hackers for the fame," he said, "but it’s people strictly for financial gain and for stealing corporate and state secrets. So what that means is, they have a lot of resources. They are going to take their time.”
Some information in this report was provided by AP and Reuters.