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Are Movie Theater Chains Mad At Sony?

In case you didn't already realize, the whole distribution situation involving Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's The Interview has been a bit of a mess. Originally the film was set to get a wide release in over 3000 theaters nationwide, but following major chains pulling out and Sony initially canceling release plans, now the movie is going out to about 300 independent theaters and is already available for rent or purchase on Google Play/YouTube. Given the way things have turned out, one might think that the major theater chains might be a bit miffed about how everything worked out - but apparently there's a bit of debate going on surrounding that subject.

Following the reveal yesterday that Sony had rejuvenated plans to release The Interview for Christmas, Deadline published an article saying that exhibitors were "in a rage" about the decision, citing that they have been treated unfairly by the people at the studio. According to the report, the major theater owners have been left "frustrated" by the flip-flopping that Sony has been doing these past few days as they've tried to adapt to both public and presidential demands/requests. What's more, the smaller venues that are showing the movie are apparently dealing with "aggressive split terms" that will see most of the profit from screenings go back to the studio.

Where this story gets complicated is when you introduce the rebuttal quote that Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures President of Worldwide Distribution sent along to Deadline a few hours later. In a lengthy statement, Bruer told the site that he has been very open with exhibitors during this entire process, and that communication between the two sides has been "really fruitful." He also added that the relationship between the exhibitors and the studio is still an incredibly vital one, and said that making any overly-aggressive movies that would potentially jeopardize that relationship wouldn't be in Sony's best interest. He added,

"What you heard wasn’t what anybody has been saying back to me. If that had been the case, I would have brought it to the table at our company, big time, if I thought there was something that was going to harm our relationships. I don’t want that, and neither do they. Everybody knew this was a tough situation, and they’ve shown a lot of understanding."

It's hard to judge this entire situation without having all of the facts, figures and details immediately available, but there seems to be enough blame to go all around for everyone involved. What will be interesting to see is how this may affect things in the long run, beyond the release of The Interview. Will this incident color how things go down between Sony and exhibitors now? How will the new method of distribution that the studio is using affect future releases? These will be questions that we will probably be asking ourselves for a long time.

Eric Eisenberg
Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.