Despite threats of war and attacks on venues, some movie theaters in Alachua County showed the controversial comedy movie “The Interview” over Winter Break.
The Marion Theatre in Ocala was one that decided to show the movie, which features actors Seth Rogen and James Franco playing journalists tasked by the CIA to assassinate North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un.
The movie sparked global controversy in June when North Korea threatened war against the U.S. if the movie was shown in theaters.
“If the U.S. administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless counter-measure will be taken,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in June after the release of the movie’s trailer, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
U.S. officials said North Korea hacked Sony — the company that created the movie — in December and released massive amounts of private information, causing considerable damage to the company’s reputation.
North Korea has denied any involvement in the hacking, but U.S. security officials said they have evidence to prove otherwise.
Later that month, after threats of attacks were made against any movie theater that would show the movie, Sony decided not to release “The Interview” when numerous movie theaters across the U.S. announced they would not show the movie.
Sony’s announcement was met with sharp criticism. President Barack Obama also condemned Sony’s decision, and said during a press conference Dec. 19 the company “made a mistake” by opting not to show the movie.
However, nearly a week later, Sony reversed its decision. “The Interview” was shown in theaters and released online Christmas Day.
About 400 people attended a free screening of “The Interview” at the Marion Theatre on Christmas Eve, said manager Cassandra Lightfoot. It was one of 331 independently owned theaters in the U.S. that showed the movie.
“As for the (threats of) attacks, I guess you could say we just chose to disregard that,” Lightfoot said.
She said the next day the theater received repeated phone calls asking for the movie to be shown again.
“We figured it would be a good idea to pick that film up and so far it’s been a good decision,” Lightfoot said. “There’s a lot of hype for it.”
While the movie was available for about $6 online on YouTube and Amazon Prime, among other sites, it was also pirated by more than 15 million people, reported TorrentFreak, a site dedicated to copyright and privacy news.
Emanuel Hernandez-Hernandez, an 18-year-old Santa Fe College film sophomore, watched the movie online because it was cheaper.
“A part of me looked forward to going to the movie theater to see ‘The Interview,’” Hernandez-Hernandez said. “As soon as we heard it was online, we were shocked how much cheaper it was. As a film producer, it kind of shined a light in my eye: ‘Wow, we don’t need huge movie theater companies to show movies.’”
He said he enjoyed the movie, but what he found most amazing was how it was advertised.
Hernandez-Hernandez said the controversy around the movie actually helped it by providing free advertising.
“I haven’t seen any billboards for ‘The Interview’ or commercials, but the fact that I have seen it so much on my social media or regular websites, I think it just shows how well-advertised this movie was,” he said. “It’s almost kind of like they advertised themselves.”