Ticket sales for The Interview have been brisk since Sony announced earlier Tuesday that it will now release the movie in limited theaters on Christmas Day, despite the threats of an attack the hackers aimed at theaters last week. About 200 indie theaters have jumped at the opportunity to show the film — seeing both a commercial upside in meeting the demand for the film and, in some cases, also making a political statement by standing up for the right of free expression.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Richardson, Texas, scheduled five showings of the movie on Christmas Day, and within hours of Sony’s announcement, four of the five had already sold out. The Alamo Drafthouse chain is showing the movie at 16 of its theaters in Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and elsewhere, and insiders say many of those showings are also sold out. The chain also plans to consult with local law enforcement about added security measures that may need to put in place.
At Atlanta’s Plaza Theater, which was among the first theaters to announce it had booked the movie, the marquee displayed the words “Freedom prevails,” according to AJC.com. Theater owner Michael Furlinger reported moviegoers lined up for tickets immediately after word spread the movie would play there, and some are choosing to see the movie to make a political statement.
The Interview features Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists recruited by the CIA to kill North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un. Sony canceled the release of the movie after its computers were hacked and theaters that had booked the film were threatened by hackers that the FBI says were working on behalf of North Korea.
A moviegoer in Atlanta told AJC.com he purchased eight tickets, even though he doesn’t find Rogen or Franco to be particularly funny. “No way” would he have bothered with the film if not for the controversy, he said.
“Free speech is the fundamental principle of civilization that will hold our world together,” Furlinger told AJC.com. “When North Korea shuts down Sony Pictures, that’s a very frightening thing for any American. That disgusts me.”
Many Americans were disappointed when Sony appeared to capitulate to the demands, but they are rallying around the studio now that it has changed its position and will release the movie on at least a limited basis.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Dec. 22 found that 47 percent disagreed with Sony’s decision to pull The Interview while just 29 percent agreed and 24 percent had no opinion on the matter. An earlier poll from Survata suggested similar results, with far more men than women disagreeing with Sony’s decision. President Barack Obama also chastised Sony when it first canceled the release and then praised it for reversing its decision.
“We cannot imagine the pressures that have been affecting Sony, at all levels of the organization they have been under attack,” Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League said. “Amidst this chaos, they have regrouped and listened to the public, the government and the exhibition community and responded with resolve and determination. At 10:45 a.m. Sony bookers approved screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other art-house and independent theaters across the country.”
“This is the best Christmas gift anyone could give us. We, both distributors and exhibitors, have collectively stood firm to our principles and for the right to freedom of expression. Two days til Christmas, and I am proud to be an American.”