Barack Obama has welcomed a decision by Sony to go ahead with a limited Christmas Day release of The Interview, its controversial comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The film, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, was originally due for release in up to 3,000 screens tomorrow, but leading US cinema groups refused to show it following threats from hackers.
Sony suffered a huge cyber attack last month, with personal emails and unreleased films leaked online. The Interview's New York premiere was then cancelled after the "Guardians of Peace" hacker group threatened a 9/11-type attack on cinemas showing the film.
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The Interview is now expected to show in 200 mostly independent and art-house cinemas tomorrow, despite fresh threats from the hackers.
Obama's spokesman Eric Schultz said: "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."
Sony said it had "never given up" on a release, and was continuing to try to show the film more widely.
The FBI has accused North Korea of launching the cyber attack. Pyongyang, which has long condemned The Interview, praised the cyber attack but denied any involvement. On Monday, the country suffered one of its worst internet outages in history.
"What started out as a Christmas comedy caper has become quite the seasonal thriller," says BBC Los Angeles correspondent Alastair Leithead. "It's got everything: cyber-attacks, terror threats and an international incident between America and North Korea, but all of it is a drama Sony Pictures could do without."
The company has been left red-faced by the internet leaks, while thousands of details of current and former staff have also been stolen, opening the door to class-action lawsuits.
"It's a still-unfolding script to a drama the critics might even slam for being a little too far-fetched," says Leithead.
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