Sony to Release ‘The Interview’ in Theaters, on VOD Despite Threats (Exclusive)

After a national clamor to release the film despite threats, Sony finds a way to get the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy out there

Sony Pictures will release the canceled Seth RogenJames Franco comedy “The Interview” in theaters and on video on demand, TheWrap has learned.

The plan is to release the film simultaneously in participating theaters and via video on demand. A number of independent theaters — including The Plaza Theater in Atlanta, MX Theaters in St. Louis, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Dallas/Fort Worth and others — have announced they will distribute the film. MX said it would be selling tickets as of 2 p.m. CT Tuesday.

The release will likely be in the 200-theater range; exhibitors typically cap the rollout of films that offer day-and-date VOD at around 300 sites, because it usually cuts attendance significantly. The move has reportedly exacerbated relations between major theater chains and the studio. Day-and-date VOD releases are a hot-button issue for the major exhibitors.

Sony announced the move Tuesday morning and issued this statement:

“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.

“I want to thank our talent on ‘The Interview’ and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month. While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”

Momentum has been growing across the country to reverse a decision to cancel the movie’s Christmas Day theatrical release after threats and a cyberhack by North Korea. President Obama and the stars of the film are among the people hailing the decision.

The White House released a statement that said, in part, “As the President made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression.”

“We are extremely pleased that audiences will be able to see the film,” said a spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association of America, the umbrella group and chief lobbying arm of the major Hollywood studios.

Rogen tweeted:

Franco also tweeted:

The Art House Convergence, a national coalition of smaller, independent movie theaters, on Monday told Sony Pictures that its members are also willing and anxious to screen “The Interview.”

After news of the release broke, Alamo Drafthouse tweeted this:

Sony CEO Michael Lynton has said since the cancellation last Thursday that his studio has every intention of releasing the film. “There are a number of options open to us and we have considered those and are considering them,” he told CNN on Friday.

A plan to distribute “The Interview” over Dish Network fell apart after talks between Sony and the satellite TV provider broke down over the weekend.