Sony announces limited release for ‘The Interview’
NEW YORK (AP) -- 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 and outrage over its cancelled release.
Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said that Seth Rogen's North Korea farce "will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day." He said Sony also 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."
Moviegoers 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.
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."
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.
"The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn't give up!" said Rogen on Twitter.
"VICTORY!!!!!!!" said James Franco, who co-stars in the film. "The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken."
North Korea suffered sweeping Internet outages in an apparent attack Monday that followed President Barack Obama's vows 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 immediate 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.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Celebrities and others react to Sony's announcement Tuesday that it will release Seth Rogen and James Franco's embattled North Korean satire, "The Interview," in some theaters on Christmas:
- "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!" - Rogen on Twitter.
- "VICTORY!!!!!!! The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken!!! SONY to release THE INTERVIEW in theaters on XMAS DAY! CELEBRATING!!!!! "The Interview" starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco saved by President Obacco! I MEAN PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!!! Sorry!!!" - Franco on Instagram.
- "Thanks to everyone who didn't give up on our movie! (at)Sethrogen & I are humbled & overwhelmed by your support. Hope you enjoy the film!" - "The Interview" co-writer-director, Evan Goldberg, on Twitter.
- "Can't wait for Ben Affleck's film about the making, marketing and release of "The Interview." (hash)OscarWatch2019" - "Night at the Museum" director Shawn Levy on Twitter.
- "...Just as I hoped, indie movie theaters step up. Good!" - Salman Rushdie on Twitter.
- "We are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech." - Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton in a statement.
- ""The Interview" to screen Xmas day in Austin & Atlanta. So our free speech is finally safe again. Glad that's over. (hash)Sony" - Actor Harry Shearer on Twitter.
- "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." - Tim League, chief of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema theaters in a statement.
- "Glad to see (at)JamesFrancoTV and (at)Sethrogen happy and plugged in again. Welcome back guys, we missed you! (hash)TheInterview" - Rob Lowe on Twitter.