“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” the statement said. “As the president made clear, we’re a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film and we welcome that outcome.”
The statement came a few hours after the studio reversed its Dec. 17 announcement to withdraw “The Interview” and opted instead for a limited release to independent theaters — and four days after the president said Sony had “made a mistake” by pulling the Seth Rogen-James Franco satire out of theaters.
“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” he said at a press conference, in response to a question about whether he agreed with Sony’s decision. He cited what the effect could be on distribution of other types of films, like documentaries, that certain foreign regimes don’t like.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship in the United States, because if somebody is able to intimidate us out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like,” Obama said. “That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.”
He added, “We cannot start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there may be a possibility of a terrorist attack.” He cited the case of the running of the Boston Marathon this year after a terrorist attack a year earlier.
“I wish they had spoken to me first,” Obama also said, referring to Sony. “I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.’”
UPDATE, 6:50 p.m. PST — Rep. Adam Schiff, a Deomcratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, has also endorsed the studio’s decision —
I’m very glad to see that Sony has secured the agreement of certain theaters to exhibit #TheInterview, and urge that other chains quickly follow suit. I hope the film will achieve wide viewership around the world through video on demand and other online release, and in many languages including Korean. Giving this parody the broadest viewership possible will be the best response to the threats and cyber attacks from the regime of Kim Jong-un.
Free expression is the bedrock principle of a democratic society and is especially important in the arts. We must not allow the world’s most oppressive dictatorship to have a veto over what American audiences can see at their local theater, or in their own homes.