As threats of violence imperiled the Christmas debut of “The Interview,” Canadian exhibitor Cineplex and other U.S. chains urged Sony Pictures earlier this week to consider opening the comedy in roughly 20 theaters before releasing it more broadly.
They believed the limited-release strategy could have helped the studio and theater owners assess if the hackers who evoked the possibility of a 9/11-style attack were serious about following through on their warnings. But Sony rejected that proposal, according to two individuals with knowledge of the talks.
The studio had used a similar strategy to release “Zero Dark Thirty” in 2012. The film about the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden courted controversy, and there were concerns that it might inspire some kind of terrorist action. The film was originally slated to open on Dec. 19, but Sony delayed the wide release of “Zero Dark Thirty” until Jan. 11, opening the film in New York and Los Angeles instead.
A representative for Sony declined to comment, but a studio insider said that “The Interview” was always intended as a broad comedy and would not have worked as a limited release. The goal was to have the film go wide on 3,000 screens.
Since the decision was made to cancel “The Interview,” the studio has consistently said that theater owners refused to show the picture, forcing them to pull it from release.
“We do not own movie theaters,” Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Friday. “We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.”