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Local premiere of controversial film viewed as victory for free speech


It's a twist-filled plot that sounds like an outlandish tale concocted by a creative Hollywood writer. We're not referring to the script for the film "The Interview." We're talking about the true-to-life path the controversial movie took from the time it was produced until it made its limited debut in theaters.

A near-sellout crowd flocked to the Flix Stadium 10 on Transit Road in Lancaster late Friday morning for the local premiere of a movie that focuses on a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un. Sony Entertainment initially canceled the film's release after hackers targeted the company, then made threats against theaters that planned to show the movie.

Following a wave of criticism in Hollywood and Washington D.C., Sony authorized a limited theatrical release that included screenings in a few hundred independent movie houses across the country.

WBFO talked with many people who attended the local premiere. While some said they showed up merely because they wanted a few chuckles the day after Christmas, others said they viewed their ticket purchase as a way to promote free speech.

"I'm not going to let any lunatic on the other side of the world tell me what I cannot do or cannot see in our country," said Alden resident Jim Kozlowski.

Kenmore resident Aaron Coniglio was among the first to buy tickets for the movie's premiere at Flix.

"I don't think arts should be sacrificed for anything," he said. "You can't go around taking away an individual artist's rights, especially nowadays."

"I'm actually excited that they're showing it today, because I thought we would never see it," said Ashley Halbach, also of Kenmore.

Johnathan Marynowski, an 18-year-old Amherst resident, said he understands why Sony initially yanked the film's release, given the threats that were being made.

"But in the end, they made the right decision, because when you come down to it, it's just a movie."

A few digital distributors have also been offering the film online.

Now the question: is the much-debated flick any good? Veteran movie critic Michael Calleri's reviews appear in numerous publications, including the Niagara Gazette. He was among those who attended Friday's premiere.

"It's hilarious," Calleri told WBFO. "The laughter was real. It was loud. It was long."

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