Sony streams North Korea comedy online as 200 theaters screen film on Christmas

AFP and AP

LOS ANGELES — Entertainment giant Sony on Wednesday streamed ��The Interview,�� the movie that has outraged North Korea for lampooning dictator Kim Jong Un, giving an early online Christmas present to U.S. viewers. The madcap, irreverent R-rated comedy was available for rent in the United States from 1800 GMT on several platforms, a day before a limited release in about 200 cinemas on Christmas Day. It was being distributed on Google’s YouTube for a US$5.99 rental fee, on the Google Play app for Android devices and on a dedicated website, Kim Song, a North Korean diplomat to the United Nations, condemned the release, calling the movie an ��unpardonable mockery of our sovereignty and dignity of our supreme leader.�� But Kim said North Korea will likely limit its response to condemnation, with no ��physical reaction.��

Seth Rogen, who stars in the film he co-directed with Evan Goldberg, cheered the decision.

��I need to say that a comedy is best viewed in a theater full of people, so if you can, I’d watch it like that. Or call some friends over,�� he tweeted.

A bawdy, expletive-laden tale full of sexual innuendo and scatological humor, the film’s future had been in doubt after Sony said it was canceling the release after an embarrassing cyberattack on its corporate network and threats against moviegoers. The U.S. has blamed the hack attack on North Korea, and President Barack Obama has threatened reprisals.

But Sony had come under fire from Obama and free speech advocates for pulling the film, and the studio quickly performed an about-face. On vacation in Hawaii, Obama, who had previously called Sony’s move a mistake, told reporters he was ��glad it’s being released.�� While some U.S. movie theater chains got cold feet after anonymous online threats, a limited number have agreed to show the film from Thursday.