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Emagine will show 'Interview' for free

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

At least five Metro Detroit theaters, one in Northern Michigan and one in the Upper Peninsula are among those nationwide that plan to screen "The Interview," a comedy that prompted an international incident with North Korea.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said Seth Rogen's farce, whose general release was canceled after hackers threatened moviegoers with violence, "will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day." They include two in Ann Arbor, as well as theaters in Wayne, Traverse City and Ironwood. A Farmington Hills theater will screen the movie Friday.

Emagine Canton will offer a free, one-week run of the movie beginning Dec. 31.

The theater on Ford Road will begin a one-week run of the film on Dec. 31. Free tickets for as many as 5,000 moviegoers will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to the Michigan-based company.

"Exhibiting the film at Emagine Canton ensures that moviegoers benefit, free of charge, from the exemplary experience of seeing feature films on the big screen," said Emagine's operating parter Jon Goldstein in a statement.

The theater asks that patrons who take advantage of the free ticket offer also make donations to The Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund, a Michigan-based nonprofit.

Lynton said Sony is continuing its efforts to release the film in more theaters and on more platforms.

"While we hope this is only the first step of the film's release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech," Lynton said.

Sony has struck a deal with YouTube to offer digital rentals of "The Interview" beginning Thursday, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press. The studio is expected to name more streaming partners for the Thursday release of the film.

"The Interview" became available for rental on a variety of digital platforms Wednesday afternoon, including Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a separate Sony website, Sony Pictures announced.

The movie, released at 1 p.m. EST, costs $5.99 to stream and $14.99 to purchase.

Seth Rogen, who stars in the film he co-directed with Evan Goldberg, cheered the decision.

"I need to say that a comedy is best viewed in a theater full of people, so if you can, I'd watch it like that. Or call some friends over," he tweeted.

After last week's threats, the nation's largest chains dropped "The Interview." Sony hastily canceled the film's release and removed mention of it from its websites.

But that decision drew widespread criticism, including from President Barack Obama, who chastised Sony for what he deemed "a mistake" that was contrary to American principles of free speech.

The State Theater in Ann Arbor plans to screen the movie starting Christmas Day, according to Russ Collins, executive director and CEO of Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater, which runs the State.

"Independent cinemas are concerned with artistic expression and freedom of speech issues," he said. "If Sony felt that it was in their best interest to release the film, we just wanted them to know that we would do what we could to participate in that."

Also in Ann Arbor, the Quality 16 on Jackson Road, run by Goodrich Quality Theaters, plans to screen the film, according to Jack Schick, executive director of Michigan chapter of the National Association of Theater Owners. The organization represents about 1,000 movie screens from independent and chain theaters in Michigan.

The film also will be shown in Wayne at the State Theater on Michigan Avenue, run by Phoenix Theatres, Schick said. Cloverland Cinemas will screen the film in Ironwood.

Meanwhile, Dipson Theatres on Wednesday said the West River Theatre on Grand River in Farmington Hills will screen the movie beginning Friday.

Schick said other Michigan theaters considering showing "The Interview" include the Alamo Drafthouse in Kalamazoo, which is waiting on word from the chain's headquarters in Austin, Texas.

"It's just a very fluid, delicate situation and obviously Sony has reversed their course," Schick said. "It's up to the individual exhibitors to weigh in at this point."

Filmmaker Michael Moore announced via Twitter Tuesday he will be showing the movie at his theater, The Bijou in Traverse City, starting Christmas Day. He ended his message with "#NoCensorshipEver" and "#thankyouSony."

Cinema Detroit, an independent theater on Cass Avenue in Midtown, announced Tuesday it would begin showing "The Interview" on Jan. 2.

The State in Ann Arbor did not originally plan to screen "The Interview" but added the film to its schedule this week as a show of support to Sony.

"We expressed our support and solidarity with our colleagues (at Sony) that were in a difficult situation," Collins said. "(Showing the film) is our small way to show that support."

Collins said he wrote a letter Friday, addressed to members of the Arthouse Convergence, an annual national conference of independent theaters held in Utah each January. The conference is managed by the Michigan Theater.

"It was an empathetic post about our colleagues at Sony," he said. "We said if there was anything that the art house cinema community could do to help support a release of 'The Interview,' we'd be glad to do what we could do."

Collins said as of Tuesday afternoon, the State did not plan to add security for the film screenings. He has, however, been in contact with the Ann Arbor Police Department.

"We will keep in touch with them," Collins said. "If they communicate to us a security concern we'll react to that. We're not expecting any kind of trouble."

Detroit News Staff Writer Candice Williams and Bloomberg News contributed.