Sony Authorizes Christmas Day Screenings of 'The Interview'

A frame from the final scene of “The Interview” Columbia Pictures

Looks like The Interview is getting its audience. Sony confirmed on Tuesday that it will be giving the film a "limited release" on Christmas Day.

"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," Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment, said 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."

The news was first reported Friday by the founder of Austin's Alamo Drafthouse theater, who tweeted that they would be scheduling screenings.

Last week, Sony pulled the plug on The Interview's anticipated theatrical release after five major theater chains, including AMC and Regal, refused to show the Seth Rogen–James Franco movie, which depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. The decision also came as hackers invoked 9/11 in threats against movie theaters planning to show the film.

"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release," Sony in a December 17 statement about its decision to cancel the premiere. "We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers."

In a news conference on Friday, President Barack Obama said Sony had "made a mistake" in deciding to pull the film. "I wish they had spoken to me first," he told reporters. "I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

Sony Pictures Chief Executive Michael Lynton strongly disagreed with that sentiment in an interview with CNN, excerpts of which began airing Friday. "We definitely spoke to a senior adviser in the White House to talk about the situation," Lynton told Fareed Zakaria.

Lynton also said at the time that the company was considering an video-on-demand release, but added that "we don't have that direct interface with the American public, so we need to go through an intermediary to do that." As Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Flint, Vox and a few others pointed out on Friday, that's not exactly true. Sony's streaming service Crackle, like Hulu, is ad-supported (i.e. Sony doesn't have an obvious way to charge viewers to watch The Interview), but it does reach a potential audience directly.

Sony followed up Lynton's remarks with a statement on Friday night. "Let us be clear—the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it," the statement read. "After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."
On Sunday, Sony's lawyer David Boies said on Meet the Press that the movie would get released. "Sony has been fighting to get this pictured distributed. It will be distributed," Boies told host Chuck Todd. "What Sony is trying to do is to get the picture out to the public but at the same time to be sure the rights of its employees and the rights of the movie-going public are going to be protected."
Late last week, Alamo Drafthouse had announced plans to show screenings of Team America; World Police in lieu of The Interview. The theater later canceled those plans, and BuzzFeed reported that Paramount Pictures ordered the Alamo and other theaters planning to screen Team America to nix their screenings.
For Manhattan audiences, the Treehouse Theater will also be staging a free live reading of a draft script of The Interview on Saturday.
Sony Authorizes Christmas Day Screenings of 'The Interview' | Culture