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Arts & Culture

Independent Theater Owner In D.C. Gets Ready To Screen 'The Interview'

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sony Pictures' controversial movie "The Interview" is now out there, the goofball comedy about assassinating the leader of North Korea. YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and Google Play made it available today to buy or rent.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The announcement from Sony Pictures comes a day after the studio says some independent theaters will show the movie, starting tomorrow. A few hundred are expected to do so. The wide release of the film was canceled after big theater chains decided not to show it following threats - allegedly threats from North Korea. And now the demand is high for indie-theater owners - owners like Josh Levin.

JOSH LEVIN: "Interview" is showing at 2:30, 5:20, 8:20 and 10:30. And everything's sold out right now except for the 5:20.

CORNISH: Levin owns West End Cinema here in Washington. I asked him if he's ever seen a situation like this before.

LEVIN: It is extremely unusual that indie theaters are the lifeline for a major studio like Sony. And we're very happy to be partners with Sony and showing this film.

CORNISH: What did you make of Sony's decision to offer the movie also as an online rental? I mean, does that take the wind out of your sails going into the showing tomorrow?

LEVIN: Not at all. I think Sony made a wise decision to make it available on as many screens as they could given the heightened interest in this film.

CORNISH: So what are you doing to prepare for the showing?

LEVIN: We're treating this as if it was any other film showing.

CORNISH: We've heard from other independent theaters who say they've reached out to their local police departments. I know you've said that you aren't doing that. But what's your reasoning and what do you make of their decision to do so?

LEVIN: I didn't say I wasn't doing it. I gently didn't answer the question directly. If you need a direct answer, I have spoken both with the MPB and the Washington field office of the FBI to make them aware that we are showing the film and to see if they had any feedback. And in both cases, there was absolutely no concern or advisory expressed.

CORNISH: What are your ticket-buyers saying right now, or maybe loyal patrons?

LEVIN: We're selling a lot of tickets to people who are specifically interested in seeing "The Interview" because they're fans of Seth Rogen and James Franco. We're selling a lot of tickets to people who've been made aware of the film because of the news coverage. And then some of my artsiest regular customers who wouldn't be caught dead going to see a James Franco, Seth Rogen comedy are coming specifically to support the principle.

CORNISH: How important is this moment to you politically, or just in taking a stand?

LEVIN: It isn't very often, frankly, in this country that such a high-profile potential abridgment of people's free expression is in the zeitgeist. And even though it's not what I would consider the typical defense of people's right to express themselves freely, it is still an opportunity for us to all, as a country and as a people, stand up and say we will not tolerate people being bullied out of free expression.

CORNISH: Before you go I have to ask if you've actually seen the film, and if you have, what's your review?

LEVIN: I have not seen it yet. We literally just received the film and we're going to do a test screening to make sure it plays cleanly. And I'm confident that people will come and laugh and have a good time.

CORNISH: Well, Josh Levin, thank you so much for speaking with us.

LEVIN: Sure, thank you.

CORNISH: Josh Levin, he owns West End Cinema in Washington, D.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.