'The Interview': Indie Cinemas, Congressman Urge Screenings

Live reading of the film's screenplay scheduled at New York City theater

Lizzy Caplan with James Franco and Seth Rogen in 'The Interview.' A coalition of independent movie theater owners and one Congressman are urging Sony to screen the film. Credit: Ed Araquel

A coalition of independent movie theater owners and one member of Congress are calling on Sony Pictures Entertainment to screen The Interview, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The controversial comedy — which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as two journalists enlisted by the CIA to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — was canceled after a group called Guardians of Peace threatened movie theaters scheduled to screen the film. The group also claimed responsibility for the massive hack of Sony. An FBI investigation linked the cyber attack to North Korea, but the state has denied any involvement.

Art House Convergence, which represents approximately 250 independent theaters across the U.S., started an online petition and released an open letter to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton and co-chairman Amy Pascal. Both touted the defense of civil liberties and free expression, with AHC director Russ Collins writing in his letter, "Circumstance has propelled The Interview into a spotlight on values, both societal and artistic, and in honor of our support, we want to offer our help in a way that honors our long tradition of defending creative expression."

In their petition, the AHC addressed the threats made against movie theaters, which caused major chains to pull the film from their Christmas Day lineups ahead of Sony's overall decision to kill the picture. "We understand there are risks involved in screening The Interview," the petitions states. "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."

Meanwhile in Washington D.C. — where President Barack Obama has already denounced Sony's decision to pull the movie — Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat and chairman of the Entertainment Industries Caucus, also penned an open letter to Lynton, in which he pushed for a wide release of the film and suggested screening The Interview in the U.S. Capitol building. Sherman said he hoped to both educate members of Congress about the movie and the issues surrounding it, and stand in solidarity with the film industry and American moviegoers.

"Screening The Interview will demonstrate the U.S. Congress’s support of the freedom of speech," Sherman wrote. "This is about our right to live without fear, and knowing that our values will not be compromised by the idle threats of a despotic regime. Good or bad, Americans should not be deprived of the opportunity to see this movie."

On Meet the Press this weekend, a lawyer for Sony, David Boies, insisted that the film would be distributed in some capacity, though admitted no one was sure how, when or where. One place The Interview will be shown — sort of — is the Treehouse Theater in New York City, which will host a live reading of the screenplay on Saturday, December 27th.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, comedian Benny Scheckner was able to obtain a draft of the film's script close to the final version. The event will be produced and performed by Scheckner, Dave Hensley and Sean Perrotta, all of whom are affiliated with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Noting on Treehouse's website that the reading is as much a performance as it is a political statement, the event will be presented free of charge.