The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe is one of a small number of theaters that will be screening The Interview, a comedy about the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, on Christmas Day, the theater announced Tuesday.
The Jean Cocteau joined other members of the independent theater network Art House Convergence last week in urging Sony Pictures Entertainment to allow them to screen The Interview following Sony’s decision to pull the film from theaters after a threatening cyberattack. The FBI late last week said it had linked the hacking to the North Korean government, and President Barack Obama said Sony’s decision shelve the film was a “mistake.”
At this point, Jean Cocteau manager Jon Bowman said, many details on the hacking of Sony and the rationale for the attack are still unknown, but the actions suggest more cyberterrorism in the future involving “fringe groups, terrorists, criminals and lunatics who insist they have the right to control what we say, do or see.
“As a movie theater, we are not just involved in the entertainment business. We are involved in the First Amendment business, protecting our freedoms,” Bowman said.
Moreover, Bowman said, author George R.R. Martin, who bought the theater last year, “feels strongly about the First Amendment and the idea of artists having the ability to speak their minds and not having to worry about being targets.”
Bowman said he began talking to Sony a week or so ago after the large chains decided against showing the movie, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco. “We’re filling the breach,” Bowman said Tuesday, minutes after learning that the Jean Cocteau would be among the theaters to screen The Interview.
He said the FBI has been notified about which theaters will be showing the film, but he doesn’t expect any problems at the Santa Fe venue. The cinema will be taking precautions, however. For example, it will not allow moviegoers to bring backpacks and large bags into the theater.
The local theater will show the movie four times on Christmas Day — at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30 p.m. After that, it will continue to play the film for a week or two, Bowman said. He expects the theater to offer a matinee and 10 p.m. showings of the film around previously scheduled movie times. But moviegoers should check with the theater or its website (www.jeancocteaucinema.com) when making plans.
“We are not dropping anything. We will honor our commitments to other distributors,” Bowman said.
The ticket prices will be the same as for regular showings: $10 in the evening for adults; $8 for students and seniors.
For Sony, the decision to release the film was the culmination of a gradual about-face: After initially saying it had no plans to release the movie, the company began softening its position after it was broadly criticized.
The film is set to open in more than 200 independent and small-chain theaters Thursday, the day it was originally set for wide release. Sony officials aren’t commenting on whether the film will be released to video on demand.
Obama, one of the loudest critics of the film’s shelving, hailed Sony’s reversal.
“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” said Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. “As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome.”
Rogen, who stars in the film he co-directed with Evan Goldberg, made his first public comments Tuesday in a surreal ordeal that began with hackers leaking Sony executives’ emails and culminated in an ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea.
“The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up!” Rogen said on Twitter.
“VICTORY!!!!!!!” said Franco, who co-stars in the film. “The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken.”
North Korea’s Internet was shut down in an apparent attack Monday, and continued to be roiled by intermittent outages Tuesday. That followed Obama’s vow of a response to what he called North Korea’s “cyber vandalism” of Sony. The White House and State Department have declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible for North Korea’s outages.
Releasing The Interview could potentially cause a response from the hackers, who called themselves the Guardians of Peace. There have been none of the embarrassing data leaks of Sony emails since the movie’s release was delayed. In a message last week to the studio, the hackers said Sony’s data would be safe so long as the film was never distributed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.