Sony Rejected Theaters’ Proposal to Debut ‘The Interview’ in Limited Release

The Interview Seth Rogen James Franco

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.”

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  1. JT says:

    Sorry, no time to discuss the finer points of Film Distribution 101 or the successful box office track record of Seth Rogen’s films. Off to fill out the umpteenth form to try to protect my ID and credit as one of the more than 47,000 real-life Americans whose lives have been affected indefinitely by this unprecedented attack.

  2. Bill B. says:

    BS. Before the release of Jaws, which I believe was the first to do so, all films were released on a limited basis and they did just fine. It actually made film more special than having it thrown out to 3000 theaters at once and be a memory in one or two months. In addition, considering the controversy, if this film has opened in 2 or 3 theaters, they would have been packed. However, given that it is probably a bad movie, opening it in 3000 theaters at once would most likely ultimately bring in more box office before bad word of mouth had a chance to spread. That is the only advantage of opening wide. It works great for the bad ones, while it’s a little demeaning to the good ones.

  3. JT says:

    This is a commercial movie aimed at a wide audience, not a small awards contender, so an attempt at such an opening would have been inappropriate. When the five biggest exhibitors in North America are saying they won’t release your movie, a theatrical release is all but impossible. I hope Sony releases the film digitally–and soon.

    • No One Of Consequence says:

      Bullshit. They could have released the film on 10 screens with beefed up security to prove the point that Terrorists can’t dictate what gets released, then, when it becomes obvious the threats of violence was just a bluff, come back a week or two later with a wide release of the film. Maybe the film wouldn’t have made as much money, but it is sure a lot more financially viable than shelving the release entirely.

      Let’s call this what it is, Sony wanted the leak of sensitive information to stop, so when the theater of violence came up, they went to theater owners and offered to pull the movie if the exhibitors wanted to skip it. When some of the exhibitors took them up on it, Sony saw an opportunity to back out and blame someone else and took it. Sony was cowardly and didn’t even have the courage to put their name on it. I hope every exhibitor remembers Sony tried to throw them under the bus the next time a Sony booker calls for another film.

    • Will says:

      Not being an awards contender has nothing to do with anything. This was a specific situation that could’ve used a limited release… not to get awards voters to build buzz, but because of the “threat” of terrorism. If 20 theaters weren’t bombed, then other exhibitors would’ve breathed easier about opening the film. Think different.

  4. Gump Chun says:

    A bunch of theaters wee perfectly willing to show the film, and said so. Sony is lying. NO ifs, ands or buts. This is abut their fear of further leaks or embrassments, nothing more. .

    • Patrick says:

      A limited release strategy wouldn’t have worked. When word gets out how terrible the film actually is, Sony loses all momentum when it tries to expand the release. That’s why it’s all or nothing. They need go get as many fools in their seats as soon as possible on an opening weekend. Seriously, this film is getting far more attention than it deserves.

      • cardmarc58 says:

        Seth Rogen’s films have been financially successful and he & Franco have a following, how do you know the film is terrible?

        What 1 persons idea of a terrible movie doesn’t mean that plenty of other people will or will not find it funny.

        Movie Critics routinely slam movies that end up quite successful & with all the publicity this incident has had, it probably would set box office records for a movie that a few people are of the opinion that it is terrible.

      • Will says:

        It doesn’t matter how terrible the film is at this point. People want to see the film re: holding onto freedom of speech. That’s why I would’ve gone.

  5. I’m boycotting any theater that declined to show “The Interview” or “Team America-World Police”.

    • says:

      but then Sony needs to make a decision do you want make stand and get the movie out there or just make money . You cannot do both and plus i think many people were going just to make a point

  6. John Shea says:

    The theaters did not stop Sony releasing the movie on DVD or PPV or downloads.

    • Karate says:

      They didn’t, but as mentioned in articles, no PPV/streaming services were willing to take it on either. As yet, anyway.

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