Dennis Lavalle had a special reason to be one of the first in line to see The Interview on its opening day in theaters. His brother-in-law, Capt. John Ogonowski, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11. He told Deadline that he feels it’s his patriotic duty to see the film. “I’m not going to have a dictator tell me what I can see and not see,” Lavalle said, “especially one whose media regularly depicts the nuclear annihilation of America at their own hands.”

His sentiments were shared by many of those who came to see the film at the Regency Plant 16 in Van Nuys, CA – and at independent movie houses all across the country, where moviegoers voted with their seats on Christmas Day and thumbed their collective noses at the cyberterrorists’ threats to blow up theaters showing the film. No one Deadline spoke with said they were scared or intimidated by the threats. Most laughed their heads off throughout the film, and cheered when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un got his head blown off in the end.

waving_the_american_flag“It’s my duty as an American to see this film,” said Kim Hampsher. Her husband Yogesh agreed. “Nobody is going to stop us from seeing that movie,” he said.

“I came because we are not going to allow another country to tell us what we can and cannot see in this country,” said David Humdy. His message to Kim was simple: “Stuff it!”

It’s also a very, very funny film. “It was hilarious,” said Myra, who gave only her first name. She laughed throughout, as did the seven members of her family she brought along.

But The Interview is more than just funny. It is one of the few films in the history of cinema that not only transcends its genre but the medium of film itself. What started out as a silly Sony ObamaSeth Rogen-James Franco comedy turned into an unprecedented world event that sparked an international incident, crippled a major motion picture studio and led a defiant president of the United States to say after Sony scrapped its opening-day release plans last week: “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. … That’s not what America is about.”

Related Obama: Sony Made Mistake Pulling ‘The Interview’; U.S. Will Respond Proportionally At Time And Place We Choose

There was quite a throng of reporters outside the venue but no sign of beefed-up security. A theater manager told Deadline, “It’s just like any other day.”

David Robb’s wife, Kelly Robb, who attended The Interview showing with him, contributed to this report.

Erik Pedersen

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