NEW YORK -- Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Tuesday a limited theatrical release of "The Interview" beginning Thursday, putting back into the theaters the comedy that prompted an international incident with North Korea, threats of violence and outrage over its cancelled release.
Tuesday evening, a Sony spokesman said more than 200 theaters would be showing the movie. Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton also said Sony is continuing its efforts to release the film on more platforms and in more theaters.
"We have never given up on releasing 'The Interview,'" Lynton said in a statement Tuesday. "While we hope this is only the first step of the film's release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech."
Everyone from moviegoers to the stars of the film to even the White House celebrated the abrupt change in fortune for a film that appeared doomed. "The Interview" began popping up in the listings of a handful of independent theaters Tuesday, including the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas and Atlanta's Plaza Theater.
Greg Laemmle of Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles told CBS News that they have made a deal with Sony to show "The Interview" -- but not until December 31.
Police departments in Atlanta, San Antonio and Pittsburgh -- cities where theaters might be screening the film -- told CBS News that they would monitor potential threats.
"We know of no active threats to these local theaters, but they can call us if needed. We are prepared for what might come," said Kyle Perrotti of the San Antonio Police Department's Investigative Unit.
One of the loudest critics of the film's shelving -- President Barack Obama - hailed Sony's reversal.
"The president applauds Sony's decision to authorize screenings of the film," said Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. "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 theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome."
The White House said Sony kept it informed about the company's deliberations over the weekend.
Rogen, who stars in the film he co-directed with Evan Goldberg, made his first public comments in a surreal ordeal that began with hackers leaking Sony executives' emails and culminated in a confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea. The FBI has said North Korea was "centrally involved" in the hacking attacks.
Rogen and his co-star James Franco reacted to the news via Twitter:
North Korea suffered sweeping Internet outages in an apparent attack Monday that followed vows from Obama of a response to what he called North Korea's "cyber vandalism" of Sony. The White House and State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible.
After hackers last Wednesday threatened terrorist attacks against theaters showing the film, the nation's major multiplex chains dropped "The Interview." Sony soon thereafter canceled the film's release altogether and removed mention of it from its websites.
But that decision drew widespread criticism, including from Obama, who chastised Sony for what he deemed "a mistake" that went against American principles of free speech. George Clooney also led a chorus pressuring for the movie's release and rallying against what he called corporate self-censorship.
Releasing "The Interview" could potentially cause a response from the hackers, who called themselves the Guardians of Peace. There have been none of the embarrassing data leaks on Sony emails since the movie's release was delayed. In a message last week to the studio, the hackers said Sony's data would be safe so long as the film was never distributed.
A limited release could potentially be followed by expansion into larger multiplex chains, a rollout that has been used in the past for controversial films including "Zero Dark Thirty." The country's top chains -- Regal, AMC and Cinemark -- didn't immediately comment Tuesday.
Independent theaters had shown a stronger appetite to screen "The Interview." Art House Convergence, which represents independent exhibitors, sent a letter Monday to Sony saying its theaters (comprising about 250 screens) wished to show the film.
In recent days, Sony has been trying to secure digital partners to help distribute "The Interview" either through streaming or video-on-demand. Such a multi-format release would be historic for Hollywood, whose studios have long protected the theatrical release window.
By appearing in as many as several hundred theaters (Sony did not immediately say how many theaters will show the film), "The Interview" will open in far from the wide release originally planned in some 3,000 theaters.