Sony's The Interview Draws US Moviegoers Who Trumpet Free Speech

Sony's The Interview Draws US Moviegoers Who Trumpet Free Speech

"The Interview," the Sony Pictures film about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, opened in more than 300 movie theaters across the United States on Christmas Day, drawing many sell-out audiences and statements by patrons that they were championing freedom of expression.

Co-directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, who also co-stars in the low-brow comedy with James Franco, surprised moviegoers by appearing at the sold-out 12:30 a.m. PT (0830 GMT) screening of the movie at a theater in Los Angeles, where they briefly thanked fans for their support.

Sony Pictures backtracked from its original decision to cancel the release of the $44 million film after major U.S. theater chains pulled out because of threats of violence by Guardians of Peace, a computer hacking group that claimed responsibility for a destructive cyberattack on Sony last month.

The United States blamed the attacks on North Korea. Movie theater managers and patrons alike said they believed there was nothing to fear, and the initial screenings on Thursday were uneventful. But one of the online outlets that distributed the film ahead of its theatrical release, Microsoft Corp's Xbox Live, reported that users were experiencing problems getting connected on Thursday.

A hacking group called the Lizard Squad claimed it was behind disruptions at both Xbox and Sony Corp's PlayStation Networks, which was not carrying "The Interview." The group's claim could not be verified. Neither Microsoft nor Sony offered explanations for the connectivity problems, though both services expected heavy use as consumers who received the devices for Christmas tried to log on all at once. Extra network traffic on Xbox from users downloading "The Interview" may also have exacerbated connectivity problems for Microsoft.