UPDATE: Dec. 23, 6:36 p.m. PST — After saying earlier on Tuesday that “The Interview” will play in more than 200 theaters, Sony has updated to say that the film will now play in more than 300 independent cinemas.
PREVIOUS: Less than a week after Sony pulled “The Interview” from theaters, the studio has reversed itself and set a limited theatrical release in the United States on Christmas Day.
“The Interview,” directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, will now open in more than 200 independent cinemas rather than in the major chains, sources confirm. The studio’s original plan had been for a wide release on Christmas at about 3,000 locations.
“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 Entertainment, in a statement. “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.”
Rogen wrote on Twitter: “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!”
Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas-based chain with about 20 locations, was among the first to announce it would play the film. CEO Tim League congratulated Sony for the move.
“We cannot imagine the pressures that have been affecting Sony, at all levels of the organization they have been under attack,” he said. “Amidst this unwarranted chaos, they have regrouped and listened to the public, the government and the exhibition community and responded with resolve and determination. At 10:45 AM Sony bookers approved screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other arthouse and independent theaters across the country.”
League’s chain had announced plans last week to screen “Team America: World Police” as a replacement for “The Interview,” but Paramount declined to allow showings of the 2004 comedy.
“This is the best Christmas gift anyone could give us,” League also said. “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.”
Daniel Kamil, owner of Cable Car Cinema, an art house in Providence, R.I., told Variety that he’s booked “The Interview” even though the comedy is not typical fare for his theater.
“It’s moved from something funny and silly into something political and important,” Kamil noted.
The Plaza Atlanta theater and Alamo Drafthouse announced Tuesday via social media that Sony Pictures has authorized them to show the film despite major exhibitors canceling screenings in the wake of a cyber-attack that debilitated the studio.
There was also growing speculation that the studio will offer the film via VOD.
Sony had flatly stated on Dec. 17 that there were “no further release plans” but has been backing away from that assertion since then — particularly following President Obama’s declaration two days later that the studio had “made a mistake” in failing to release the film.
Lynton stated in an interview with CNN on Friday that no on-demand providers had stepped forward to offer to handle the VOD release, but that may have changed in the past few days with the intense media coverage of “The Interview” situation. While a number of major theater chains have expressed displeasure at Sony for shifting the blame to them in the decision to pull “The Interview” from wide release, a group of independent exhibitors reiterated that they were willing to show the film in an open letter to Lynton and co-chair Amy Pascal published Monday. A New York theater is also planning a live read of the film’s screenplay for Dec. 27.
The FBI on Friday said it believed North Korea was behind the hack attack on Sony Pictures in retaliation for the comedy that involves the assassination of the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Later in the day, President Obama criticized Sony’s decision to pull the film’s planned Dec. 25 release after hacker org Guardians of Peace threatened violence against theaters that showed the pic.
“The Interview” imbroglio has sparked a national discussion about freedom of expression and the dangers of cyber-warfare in the digital age.
League told Variety that discussions with Sony began Monday after the Art House Convergence coalition reached out to the studio with a pledge of support for showing “The Interview.”
He said members of the coalition agreed unanimously that they would still show the movie if the studio opted for an early VOD release.
League said the bookings for “The Interview” are open-ended and that the chains are addressing security concerns in the wake of the hackers’ threats. “We’ve reached out to local police departments and will be on the alert,” he added.
Alamo is showing the film at 17 locations, including four in Austin and two in San Antonio.
Brent Lang contributed to this report.