‘The Interview’ screens without incident in Park City
December 26, 2014
The Park City Film Series screening of the James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy "The Interview" at the Prospector Theater on Christmas drew more than 300 people who showed up to see the R-rated controversial political satire, said Katharine Wang, executive director of the Park City Film Series.
"With a little more than 24 hours to promote the film, we felt that was pretty good, in particular on Christmas Day," she said.
In addition to the screening, filmmakers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg created a special short to thank audience members for seeing the film, Wang said.
Attendees included Film Series regulars and out-of-town visitors..
"We also had people who came in and told us they wanted to support freedom of expression and the art-house theaters for showing the film," Wang said.
"The Interview" is about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un.
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The Park City Film Series will host screenings tonight, Dec. 27 at 6 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. Additional screenings will be held Jan. 1 at 7 p.m., Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. and Jan 4, at 8 p.m.
Sony Pictures Entertainment initially pulled the film from distribution after a group called Guardians of Peace hacked the studio and made terrorist threats, according to Wang.
After President Obama chided Sony about concerns over censorships and freedom of speech, the film-activist group, Art House Convergence, sent a letter of petition to Sony offering to show the film, she said.
The group, headed by Russ Collins, represents community-based, mission-driven cinemas.
"The Park City Film Series, which is a member of the group, normally screens independent foreign and documentary films," Wang said. "But as our mission states, we create community through film and we want to elevate the community dialog by screening films that are provocative and challenge the status quo.
"Being a citizen in the world and living in a country that prides itself on the ability to speak freely and challenge the government, I think that’s an important conversation to have," she said. "We believe that censorship at any level is not acceptable."
On Christmas Eve, Sony announced that 400 art house film theaters would screen the film, and The Prospector took precautions by adding more security, prior to the Christmas Day screenings, general manager Avinas Nokhai told The Park Record.
"We will do anything possible to make sure everything runs smoothly. I will also be on property as well over the weekend to make sure someone from management will be here in case something does happen."
Usually, the Park City Film Series works with an underwriter and other sponsors to cover a film’s screening free, but this was a different situation.
"We didn’t have time to get an underwriter to help pay for the film, but we hoped by the volumes of screenings and the interest in the film that we would be able to cover our costs," she said.
The agreement with Sony is a called a box-office split.
"We’ll pay a certain percentage of the money we make through ticket sales to Sony," Wang said. "So if three people come, we won’t pay very much, but if thousands of people come, the studio will make more money."
Sony probably won’t make any profits from the screenings, Wang said.
"The initial release was going to be 4,000 screens and they bumped it down to 400, so it will be a huge hit for them," she said. "They are showing it on demand, as well, but it was more the principle to them. They worked with us to get the film out, and we’re the only screen in Summit County showing it."
The Park City Film Series is showing "The Interview," amid its regular programming.
"We will have two features running each weekend," Wang said. "We are doing it in a way so we don’t have to screen a film at midnight."
Wang thanked Park City for supporting the screenings.
"We spoke to the city and told them we were going to screen the film and there was no negativity or censorship in our community that would have prevented us from doing this," she said.
Wang also thanked Sundance Institute for starting the Art House Convergence in 2006.
"They were the progenitor of this whole group coming together and the art-house screenings of ‘The Interview’ was one of the results of the group, because it petitioned Sony to release the film," she said.
For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfilmseries.org.
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