Happy holidays, freedom-loving Americans: The embattled Sony comedy “The Interview,” whose wide release was canceled last week, is now headed to a big screen near you — and quite likely even your television.
Sony Entertainment announced Tuesday a limited theatrical release of the Seth Rogen-James Franco satire. Sony also said it was working to release the film as video on demand.
Which means after a week of controversy, terroristic threats and international intrigue, the movie now will open as originally scheduled: on Christmas.
“This is the most interesting release I’ve ever heard of or been a part of,” said Adam Roberts, co-owner of the Screenland Armour in North Kansas City, who got word at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday that the movie would be available. About two hours later, he got confirmation he could show it.
The confusion over the last-minute release only adds to the bizarre saga of “The Interview,” which became the pressure point of a massive cyberattack on Sony that came to light in November.
Sony last week pulled “The Interview,” a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after U.S. movie theaters were threatened with 9/11-style violence. Leawood-based AMC was among the big theater chains that announced it wouldn’t show the film. Federal investigators concluded last week that North Korea instigated the Sony cyberattack.
But Sony’s decision to pull the film only raised the ire of many who thought the company was caving to vague, hollow threats. President Barack Obama last week called Sony’s decision “a mistake.”
On Tuesday, Sony reversed course.
“VICTORY!!!!!!! The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken!!!,” star Franco tweeted in response to the news of the film’s release.
In the Kansas City area, the Alamo Drafthouse downtown, the Pharaoh in Independence and the Blue Springs 8 also will show “The Interview” for one-week engagements.
But Liberty-based B&B Theatres, which operates seven locations in KC area, said it would not show the film.
“When we found out that they would be releasing it simultaneously with video on demand … we decided not to play the film,” Bobbie Bagby Ford, B&B’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “B&B Theatres has never and will never support a VOD release. We simply don’t and won’t play day-and-date with a home video release.”
Sony, however, has not yet confirmed details of the video on demand release.
Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment, said in a statement the studio had “never given up on releasing ‘The Interview.’”
“We’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” Lynton said. “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. … While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
When Sony pulled the film, theaters planned their Christmas schedules without the movie.
“This just makes it even crazier,” said Roberts of Screenland Armour.
Major studios usually attach strings to their releases, Roberts said, but in the case of “The Interview,” theaters can show it “as much or little as we want.”
The theater planned to extend its hours and show the movie at 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. Thursday, with three shows a day after that, although the schedule could change depending on business.
Over at Alamo, officials said that after quickly selling out a 10:55 p.m. Thursday showing, they added a 10:20 p.m. showing that day.
“This happened just last-minute, and we have nothing but praise for Sony for doing it,” said Ryan Davis, creative manager and programmer for the KC Alamo.
Brian Mossman, co-owner of the Glenwood Arts, Leawood and Rio theaters, said he was notified Tuesday morning that “The Interview” might be available as early as Thursday. But “it wouldn’t be fair to my customers to pull (other films) for ‘The Interview,’” he said.
“I don’t know why Sony would wait till the 11th hour to make it available,” Mossman added.
Roberts was hoping any video on demand rollout would happen no sooner than this weekend, although some reports said “The Interview” might turn up on home TVs as early as Thursday.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the decision by Sony and some theaters will allow people to make up their own minds about the film.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.