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Art House Theaters Tell Sony They Want to Screen ‘The Interview’

Art House Convergence, which represents independent exhibitors with a total of 250 screens, has told Sony Pictures that its members want to screen “The Interview.”

In an open letter to top studio executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, the group pledged its support for the studio and its employees in the wake of the massive hack attack. The nationwide Christmas Day release of “The Interview” was canceled following the hackers’ Dec. 16 threat that theaters showing the film could be the targets of 9/11-style attacks.

“Your Art House motion picture colleagues wish to support you and your company,” said Russ Collins, the group’s director, in a letter released Monday.

“Circumstance has propelled ‘The Interview’ into a spotlight on values, both societal and artistic, and in honor of our support, we want to offer our help in a way that honors our long tradition of defending creative expression.”

Art House Convergence has also launched an online petition at Change.org urging other independent theater owners to pledge that they will also screen “The Interview.”

Reps of the major U.S. theater chains have told Variety that they are upset that Sony Pictures Entertainment has insisted in public statements that the exhibitors are the major reason the studio canceled the release of “The Interview.” Authorities said Friday that North Korea is behind the hackings as punishment for Sony’s “The Interview,” which centers on a plot to kill the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

“We understand there are risks involved in screening ‘The Interview.’ We will communicate these risks as clearly as we can to our employees and customers and allow them to make their own decisions, as is the right of every American,” the letter said.

Sony initially said on Dec. 17 that it would not release the film in any form. A source close to the studio told Variety that Sony still hopes to release “The Interview” by the end of 2014, but the comedy will likely forgo a theatrical release and will be made available through a patchwork of electronic sell-through, video-on-demand and other home entertainment platforms.

The online petition reads as follows —

We, the independent art house community, specifically the theaters below, express our support for Sony Pictures and all of its employees worldwide in this difficult time. We want to share our encouragement and appreciation for Sony and the great contributions it has made to the film industry, especially to our sector of art houses and independent cinemas.

On December 16th, the Terrorist Organization, “The Guardians of Peace,” escalated their threats by promising terrorist attacks against cinemas showing THE INTERVIEW.  “The world will be full of fear,” their message read, “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

With this threat, the issue became larger than any film, larger than Sony and larger than the entertainment industry: societal and artistic values are in peril. We are at an important crossroads with an opportunity to reaffirm clearly our dedication to the value of freedom and the absolute necessity to keep our film industry free of restriction, censorship and violent intimidation. We implore our fellow exhibitors and our nation of moviegoers to stand up in recognition that freedom of speech and artistic expression are vital not only to the entertainment industry but for all art and commerce worldwide.

We stand in solidarity with Sony and offer our support to them in defense of artistic integrity and personal freedoms; freedoms which represent our nation’s great ability to effect change and embrace diversity of opinion.

We understand there are risks involved in screening THE INTERVIEW.  We will communicate these risks as clearly as we can to our employees and customers and allow them to make their own decisions, as is the right of every American. Understanding those risks, the undersigned, independent cinema owners and operators of America under the banner of the Art House Convergence, do hereby agree to support Sony and to support theatrical engagements of THE INTERVIEW should Sony, at its sole discretion, decide to release it to theaters.

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