Santa Barbara’s Metropolitan Theatres Corporation is one of the many American theater companies that has now decided to show The Interview despite the threats of violence that allegedly North Korean hackers made against Sony Pictures. Starting on Christmas, it will screen at the Arlington Theatre at 10:45 each night at least through New Year’s Day. [UPDATE: The schedule changed again, and now the film will show at 10:45 p.m. on Christmas, and 11 p.m. every day though January 1, except for New Year’s Eve, when it will not be shown.] The company will decide whether to expand future showings next week, according to Metropolitan’s president David Corwin, but he worries that Sony’s simultaneous video-on-demand release may also affect theater attendance.
The dark comedy is about a pair of tabloid TV journalists, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, who get an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and then are asked by the CIA to assassinate him. The film is what most believe led to the embarrassing hacking incident at Sony, though not all share the official American government belief that North Korea was at fault. (Read this interview with UCSB’s digital security expert Giovanni Vigna for another point of view.) No matter the culprits, Sony decided last week not to release the film on Christmas Day as planned because most theaters were pulling out for liability concerns related to the hackers’ threats.
With criticism of such a decision and what it meant for free speech coming from even President Barack Obama, Sony changed course this week, and so did many of the major theater companies that had previously opted out. As a smaller theater chain, Metropolitan Theatres had not issued any statement on the matter, but it had previously booked The Interview to show in both the downtown Metro 4 and the Camino Real Marketplace cineplex in Goleta, said Corwin, who explained, “It had been booked for a very long time, so last week when Sony pulled it from everyplace, we had to scramble to make commitments with other films.”
When news broke today that Sony was indeed releasing the film, Corwin’s team had to scramble again to find a slot, even consulting with the City of Santa Barbara and Police Department to ensure their support. Like most law enforcement, including the FBI, Corwin does not feel that the hackers’ threats were credible.
“Obviously, these are all unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances,” said Corwin, who is proud to be one of only 300 screens now planning to show the movie nationwide, though he does not support Sony’s decision to release it online at the same time. “We just felt it was important to be able to offer the film to those who want to see it in the theater.”