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Sony’s The Interview is getting its day in theaters after all.
“We have never given up on releasing The Interview and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, in a statement on Tuesday. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”
The studio is telling theaters that it also will offer the movie simultaneously on VOD, a knowledgeable source tells The Hollywood Reporter. It is not clear which VOD platform the studio will use or whether the studio has locked down a deal. That move, though, is likely to further alienate the larger chains that insist that when movies are released theatrically there shouldn’t be simultaneous VOD releases. So far, none of the major circuits have come on board, but as of 4:30 pm on Tuesday, Sony had commitments from more than 200 theaters to book the film for what will be an open-ended run, and that number could go slightly higher as other theaters decide on their plans. Sony isn’t providing any extra security at the theaters that show the movie, leaving it to the local theaters to deal with security issues as they see fit.
“I want to thank our talent on The Interview and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month,” Lynton’s statement read. “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.”
Motion Picture Association of America spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said, “We are extremely pleased that audiences will be able to see the film.”
The Plaza Theater in Atlanta, The Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas/Fort Worth and Southside Works Cinema in Pittsburgh have all stated that they will be screening the Seth Rogen and James Franco title on Christmas Day. The Landmark Theatres chain has said it does not plan to book the movie so that it can honor commitments to other films it already has in place.
“At 10:45 AM Sony bookers approved screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other arthouse and independent theaters across the country. This is the best Christmas gift anyone could give us,” said Tim League, CEO of The Alamo Drafthouse, in a statement. “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.”
“We are happy that Sony has decided to release The Interview,” said Jonathan Forman, president of Cleveland Cinemas, which operates the Southside Works Cinema. “Freedom of speech and artistic expression are core values to America and our company has never been one to shy away from a film due to its content. To not allow audiences access to this film would not have been right.”
Rogen, who had canceled press appearances in recent days, praised Sony’s decision. “The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!” the actor wrote on Twitter.
Franco added on Twitter: “VICTORY!!!!!!! The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken!!!”
The Plaza Atlanta is set to screen the film beginning on Dec. 25 at multiple times throughout the day on two screens, according to a statement on its social media accounts.
Both the Alamo Drafthouse theater and Plaza Theater were among those that had planned to screen Paramount’s Team America: World Police in the aftermath of the initial Interview release cancellation. However, the Team America screenings were subsequently canceled.
The Interview, which revolves around the assassination of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, was shelved in theaters in the wake of the damaging cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
After hackers sent out emailed threats on Dec. 16 that invoked the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sony gave theater circuits the option to show the film and major theater chains declined to screen the title.
The studio released a statement on Dec. 17 saying: “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release.”
The decision was met with criticism, including from President Barack Obama, who said in a Dec. 19 press conference that the studio “made a mistake” in deciding to shelve the title. In a subsequent interview with CNN that same day, Lynton said that the studio was still exploring avenues for distributing the film.
Indeed, Sony Lawyer David Boies appeared to signal the studio’s willingness to distribute the film during remarks he made over the weekend. “Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed,” Boies stated on Dec. 21 during NBC’s Meet the Press. “How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anybody knows quite yet. But it’s going to be distributed.”