Hundreds of theaters made special arrangements for the highly-talked about comedy depicting actors James Franco and Seth Rogen assassinating the North Korean dictator to be shown in its theaters Christmas Day.
Tt turned out to be a mega hit.
Sony Pictures received a lot of backlash for initially calling off the release of the controversial film, “The Interview,” but the turnaround made the movie available on digital platforms and in more than 300 theaters on Christmas making it a special event for families around the nation.
"We are taking a stand for freedom," said theater manager Lee Peterson of the Cinema Village East in Manhattan, where most of Thursday's seven screenings had sold out by early afternoon. "We want to show the world that Americans will not be told what we can or cannot watch. Personally, I am not afraid."
At Atlanta's Plaza Theater, a sell-out crowd Thursday hailed the film's release, washing down popcorn with beer and cocktails and uniting for a boisterous sing-along of "God Bless America" before the opening credits.
"This is way more fun than it would have been," said Jim Kelley of Atlanta, who waited outside with his daughter, Shannon. The elder Kelley added, with mocking sarcasm, "This is almost dangerous, like we're living life on the edge."
Theater security was light as the movie industry took the threat of a 9/11-style attack more seriously than the government. Homeland Security shot down and credible threats in a statement last week.
Meanwhile, Darrell Foxworth, a special agent for the FBI in San Diego, said Wednesday the agency was sharing information with independent movie theater owners showing "The Interview" out of "an abundance of caution" and to educate them about cyber threats and what help the FBI can offer.
Kim Song, a North Korean diplomat to the United Nations, condemned the release Wednesday, 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."
Decisions to show the movie through the Internet could open up companies to hacking. Xbox and PlayStation's online gaming services were down Thursday afternoon but the cause was unclear. Meanwhile, YouTube and other Google products were not having any disruptions. A Microsoft spokesman confirmed the Xbox outage but declined further comment. Sony PlayStation representatives did not immediately respond to inquiries.
In Little Rock, members of an Arkansas family who say they otherwise would have never seen "The Interview" were among the first patrons at the Riverdale 10 theater. Kay Trice and her husband drove an hour from Stuttgart, Arkansas, to see the movie with their daughter and appreciated "the freedom to see it."
"It should be shown in this country and somebody in North Korea should not have the right to scare us out of seeing this," Trice said.
The threats and controversy ultimately did not stop moviegoers from seeing the movie. However, some attendants cautioned movie buffs about the politics of the movie.
"No one should go into expecting it to be a serious commentary on politics," 34-year-old Derek Karpel said. "But it's fun. People should go."
The Associated Press contributed to this report