The Austin Chronicle

Alamo Drafthouse Gets OK to Screen The Interview

By Richard Whittaker, December 23, 2014, 1:02pm, Picture in Picture

Ten days ago, there was a secret advance screening of a studio comedy in Austin. Then the world came to a screeching halt, and The Interview was shelved. Now, at least in Austin, audiences will get a chance to catch the controversial comedy, as the Alamo Drafthouse confirms it will host screenings, starting Christmas Day.

The news came directly from Alamo head honcho Tim League, who sent out a victorious tweet this morning:

In a fuller statement, League said:

"We cannot imagine the pressures that have been affecting Sony, at all levels of the organization they have been under attack. 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.

"This is the best Christmas gift anyone could give us. 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."

This will actually be the second time The Interview has screened in Austin. It was part of the programming at the annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon movie marathon at the Alamo South Lamar, with a special appearance by star Seth Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg. The film itself got a standing ovation, with Rogen playing a schlubby TV producer trying to add credibility to his own career by having his idiot host (James Franco) interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (bitplayer Randall Park in a surprisingly sympathetic and textured performance) – a plan derailed by the CIA, who want them to assassinate the petty and butcherous tyrant.

The media satire was set for a nationwide release, until Sony Pictures pulled it after threats of violence against cinemas from a hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace. The U.S. government has blamed North Korea for the hacking and subsequent threats (an accusation that North Korea has denied) while President Barack Obama has called the attacks not an act of war but simply "cybervandalism."

However, it was enough to cause initially the big five cinema chains, and then Sony itself to pull all screenings. In a surprising step, Paramount followed suit, refusing to allow cinemas to screen the equally confrontational Team America: World Police.

This was met with a quick backlash/vote of confidence from Art House Convergence the trade group representing independent theaters: In an open letter to Sony chairman/CEO Michael Lynton and cochair Amy Pascal, AHC director Russ Collins wrote, "In life and art, values are the ultimate 'bottom line' and striving for freedom and goodness are the sometimes conflicting, but paramount values of enlightened societies." He explained that his members were offering to screen the film, representing it as "an opportunity to respond clearly to the behavior of an international bully opposed, by word and deed, to the value of freedom."

Over 500 cinema managers internationally signed up to a petition, and now it seems Sony has honored their commitment. The film will begin screening on Dec. 25, at the Austin Drafthouse and Atlanta's Plaza Cinema, and other yet-to-be-confirmed locations.

This may well put an end to all the conspiracy theories doing the rounds that Sony pulled The Interview as part of some elaborate publicity stunt. Even if every cinema on the list does at least one screening, that's a far cry from the big opening day in 2,000 to 3,000 U.S. cinemas that they were expecting.

UPDATED: The Alamo has released a more complete list of theatres screening The Interview:
Alamo Lakeline - Austin
Alamo Slaughter - Austin
Alamo South Lamar - Austin
Alamo Ritz - Austin
Alamo - Littleton, CO
Alamo Loudoun - Ashburn, VA
Alamo - Kalamazoo, MI
Alamo - Yonkers, NY
Alamo Main Street - KC
Alamo - Richardson, TX
Alamo Vintage Park - Houston, TX
Alamo Mason Park - Katy, TX
Alamo - Lubbock, TX
Alamo Marketplace - New Braunfels, TX
Alamo Park North - San Antonio
Alamo Westlakes - San Antonio

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