After weeks of controversy, Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced a Christmas Day release of “The Interview” in a small number of theaters. It was a semi-reversal for Sony, which had canceled distribution of the movie in the face of terrorist threats linked to North Korea.
One of the comedy’s stars, Seth Rogen, tweeted:
The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) December 23, 2014
In New York City, though, a comedy venue called the Treehouse Theater already had planned a live reading of the film’s script, which is about a plot to assassinate North Korea’s dictator. The theater announced on its website:
In the wake of recent events surrounding the controversial film ‘The Interview,’ the feeling that a threat to free speech has been imposed is inescapable and terrifying. In response to this, three comedians have acquired a draft of the script for the banned film and are producing a live-read at the Treehouse Theater on Saturday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.
The live reading is sponsored by the Pioneers Bar. The theater called its copy of the script “close to the final version” and promised that “the performers are top notch.”
“As the event is as much a political statement as a theatrical event, the show will be free,” the announcement said.
>>> Sony OKs Limited Release of ‘Interview,’ Despite North Korean Threats
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Benny Scheckner, a comedian and co-producer of the live reading, said he had a strong reaction when Sony decided to pull its film.
Scheckner said he and fellow comedian-producers Dave Hensley and Sean Perrotta decided to find the script online and perform it live. The live reading is stripped down and absent sets and costumes, but it takes an important stand for free speech, he said.
“We feel very strongly that this was a defamation of free speech,” Scheckner said. “We felt that we had to do something as comedians and as Americans.”
Steven Bucci, a cybersecurity expert and former Pentagon official who oversees defense and foreign policy issues at The Heritage Foundation, expressed similar sentiments.
Bucci told The Daily Signal:
It is nice to see Sony and the theater owners getting some spine. Their reflexive cancellation was irrational and unnecessary. Frankly, I don’t care about the movie. I care about the American right to free expression.
Scheckner said he is a fan of the film’s stars, Rogen and James Franco, in part because they have “found a way to express their voices in Hollywood, which doesn’t always happen.”
The free performance will be followed by an event called “F— You Kim Jong Un! A Comedy Show to Benefit the People of North Korea.”Admission is $5, with all proceeds benefiting Human Rights Watch.
Now that Sony has announced a limited release, Scheckner said the producers may scrap the live reading. He just wanted to bring the story to those who wanted to see it, the comedian said.
“If the movie is screening in New York, I’m going to go see it,” Scheckner said. “I saw another headline like ‘Bad News for The Interview Live Reading,’ but what they don’t understand is that this is great news. The movie is getting released, which is the whole point.”
Whether or not the live reading happens, the charity event will go on.
Sony is exploring options for the film beyond the limited Christmas release.
“We are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience,” Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said.
This report has been modified.