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'The Interview': How art house theaters banded together to save Sony's once-doomed film

A man shows his ticket for
A man shows his ticket for "The Interview" purchased at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema December 25, 2014 in Ashburn, Virginia.

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The saga of "The Interview" is one of the most fascinating and exhausting stories out there right now. It involves possible international cyberterrorism, petty Hollywood e-mail squabbling and a whole lot of leaked information.

But who would have thought that it would eventually involve art house theaters?

After the five major North American exhibitors pulled the film from their screens, a coalition of 250 art house theaters created a petition through the organization Art House Coalition to show the film. Sony uncanceled the release of the film, and now there are small theaters all over the country that will be showing "The Interview" on Christmas Day.

James Kirst, the founder of Los Angeles's Downtown Independent Theater, says originally he had no plans to screen the movie. Despite hosting a taste-maker screening of "The Interview" for Sony in October, they still "wouldn't normally book a film of this size."

In fact, Kirst has tried to bring larger movies to his theater before.

"We've asked to play 'The Hobbit' series and been denied," he said. "It's just the reality of the situation."

But "The Interview" fiasco has provided, in Kirst's words, "an interesting opportunity to let smaller theaters that are normally locked out of these films participate."

The Downtown Independent is, as the name suggests, an independent theater with just one screen, but there are larger theaters in the art house scene that will run "The Interview." One such chain is Alamo Drafthouse, a theater that started in Austin, Texas in the late 1990s.

Christian Parkes is the Chief Brand Officer for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, and he says that, "The conversation of civil liberties and freedom of expression was pushed right to the very front of the dialogue," surrounding "The Interview." He refers to the Art House Convergence's petition to Sony as, "a line in the sand."

Parkes continued: "We felt that if we seceded here then we would be setting a precedent, and that precedent would really extend into any type of creative space, whether it's literature, music, news outlets and media, TV shows ... any type of media that someone could be offended with, that they could then make a violent threat against, we felt would be put in jeopardy."

When asked about the Drafthouse's security, Parkes answers with a laugh, "I can definitely say our security is better than it was two weeks ago." He says Alamo Drafthouse has been in contact with both the FBI and local law enforcement officials to insure that people can safely attend their theaters.

Parkes concluded by claiming that, "This is a really good moment for the art house movement. There's a lot of people that will be going to these theaters tomorrow — there are over 300 theaters across the US that have booked this film — that won't necessarily normally go to these theaters, and they'll see trailers for films they would never normally be exposed to. From a broader level, I'm actually really proud of what we've been able to do: we stepped up and said that we're able to do something that the big exhibitors are not willing to do."

"The Interview" opens in limited theatrical release on Christmas Day.

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