A group of art house theater managers has petitioned Sony Entertainment to suggest they could be an outlet for release of “The Interview,” the movie pulled last week after hackers threatened to attack theaters showing it.
Andy Smith, executive director of The Nickelodeon in Columbia, was among the theater managers who signed the online petition posted by the Art House Convergence on change.org. The effort “grew out of a conversation starting online if there was something that our field could do with this crisis,” said Smith, who is on the provisional board of directors for the Art House Convergence. “We as art house theaters value freedom of expression.”
After President Obama in a speech blamed Sony for pulling the film, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN on Friday that Sony did not cave to the hackers and canceled the release only after all major theater chains decided not to show the movie.
“The president, the press and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton told CNN. “We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.”
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On “Meet the Press” on NBC on Sunday, Sony lawyer David Boies said “The Interview” is “going to be distributed, and what Sony has been trying to do is to get the picture out to the public,” while protecting the rights of company employers and moviegoers.
Media reports have suggested that Sony might air “The Interview” on Crackle, its own streaming video service, but neither Crackle nor parent Sony have responded to requests for comment.
The Art House Convergence aims to offer another option. “The Interview,” a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, isn’t the typical film shown at theaters such as The Nickelodeon, which airs independent films often not seen in the national chains. The offer to air the film is more a political expression than an endorsement of the film itself, Smith said.
“We are at an important crossroads,” reads the petition, “with an opportunity to reaffirm clearly our dedication to the value of freedom and the absolute necessity to keep our film industry free of restriction, censorship and violent intimidation. We implore our fellow exhibitors and our nation of moviegoers to stand up in recognition that freedom of speech and artistic expression are vital not only to the entertainment industry but for all art and commerce worldwide.”
It went on to note, “We understand there are risks involved in screening “The Interview.” We will communicate these risks as clearly as we can to our employees and customers and allow them to make their own decisions, as is the right of every American.”