The Interview: UK independent cinemas join clamour to screen controversial comedy

Cinema owners want to promote freedom of speech

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The Independent Culture

Independent cinemas in Britain are lobbying to be allowed to screen The Interview, joining a growing US campaign against Sony’s decision to ditch the film for fear of North Korean reprisals.

Art-house cinemas that would usually have steered clear of the juvenile Hollywood comedy are among those who have indicated their willingness to show it as a protest against censorship and in defence of freedom of expression.

Cinemas in the UK which indicated to The Independent that they would like to show the film include The Watershed Bristol, The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle and the Lexi Cinema in north west London.

Mark Cosgrove, cinema curator of the Watershed, said it would prefer to screen The Interview “as part of a national event promoting freedom of speech”. He added: “It would be great if it could be screened on every screen across the UK at one time.”

The Interview, starring Seth Rogan and James Franco, has become the centre of a diplomatic storm after internal Sony emails were hacked and published online - in an apparent revenge attack by North Korea for its depiction of the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un.


The studio subsequently pulled the film, with Sony blaming the decision on major US cinema chains declining to show it in their theatres. The hacking group - the so-called Guardians of Peace - has threatened terrorist attacks on cinemas showing the film.

The Watershed’s sentiments were echoed by Christian Barron, one of the volunteers at community run The Star and Shadow Cinema. “I would love to show this film,” he said. “I think it is a real freedom of speech issue.”

The independent cinemas are largely not standing behind the film, a poorly-reviewed big-budget comedy made by a mainstream studio, but rather the precedence pulling it under intimidation from a dictatorship.

Karen von Drehle, marketing manager of the Lexi Cinema, said: “We wouldn’t normally show The Interview but as a principal or a sign of support the Lexi would be part of a campaign for freedom of speech.”

 

Almost two-thirds of Americans think Sony has overreacted, and cinema owners and writers to A-list actor George Clooney have criticised the move to pull the film. President Barack Obama said Sony’s decision was “a mistake”.

The Republican National Committee sent a letter to the country’s biggest cinemas calling them to show the film. Democrat Congressman Brad Sherman said he wanted to hold a screening on Capitol Hill. He wrote to Sony saying it would “demonstrate the US Congress’s support of the freedom of speech”.

The studio is considering what to do next, and could release the film straight onto YouTube. One of its lawyers told NBC the film “is going to be distributed”.

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