‘The Interview’ screens in Kitsap | Kitsap Week

Independent theaters in Kitsap show "The Interview" after major chains refused to show it due to threats from hackers.

Despite negative press and international threats, Kitsap’s independent theaters are choosing to screen “The Interview,” a comedy that mocks North Korea’s leader.

“The studio said they weren’t going to show it because the main theater companies — the chains — said they weren’t going to show it out of fear that customers could get hurt,” said Craig Smith, owner of the Firehouse Theater.

Kingston’s Firehouse Theater is screening “The Interview” from Jan. 2-8, at 8:30 p.m. Despite all advertising being pulled for the film, it received widespread press because of threats from hackers who could have ties to North Korea.

The hackers referenced the attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, when saying that movie goers should not see the movie.

“The main reason I’m showing it is on principle,” Smith said. “We are not going to be dictated to. I’m a veteran, my father fought in the Korean conflict, my father was a journalist. It irks me. This is freedom of speech. I want to have the opportunity for the community to see it.”

If ticket sales do well enough over the week, Smith said he will continue screening the film.

The Interview,” a Sony product, is about a couple of television personalities — played by actors Seth Rogen and James Franco — disappointed with their careers producing soft news and reality TV.

When given the opportunity to interview the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, they jump on it. But the CIA views it as an opportunity as well. Agents want the TV stars to assassinate the leader of North Korea during the interview.

“It’s very funny. Very disrespectful,” said Jeff Brein of Far and Away Entertainment. “I can see why Kim Jong-un would be upset, but it is satire. Seth Rogen and James Franco do a great job. It’s fun. It’s off color, but that’s the way a lot of their movies are.”

The Firehouse Theater joins a list of other independent theaters across the nation that opted to show the film despite threats. Far and Away Entertainment is another local independent operation that has screened the film. Through its Bainbridge Cinemas and Olympic Cinemas, it was among 311 small theaters that screened the film on Dec. 25, its original opening date.

“Now it’s expanded, it’s up to 500 theaters, but still not major chains,” Brein said.

“There are 11 theaters that are showing it in Washington.,” Brein said. “Four of those theaters are ours.”

Two of Far and Away Entertainment’s theaters that are screening “The Interview” are in Kitsap. Adding the Firehouse Theater to that list makes three places to see the film in the area.

“The Interview” sold out at Bainbridge’s theater on Dec. 25. Ticket sales have been steadily positive as it continues to screen there, Brien said.

Far and Away Entertainment was contacted by the FBI prior to opening the film. The FBI gave independent theaters tips on what to look for on their computers should a hacker decide to act.

“(The FBI) told us from day one that there have been no credible threats received for theaters and people going to theaters,” Brein said. “They only thing they had was for stuff going on the Internet.

“Fortunately it all worked out well and the movie was a hit. More importantly, we stood up to these troublemakers and showed the movie.”

The film was originally slated for release in October, but was rescheduled to December and was ultimately canceled by major theaters because of the threats.

The concern at movie theaters grew after The Guardians of Peace — a hacker organization that the FBI believes is tied to North Korea — hacked into computers at Sony Pictures containing sensitive information, including personal information about employees, salaries, emails and even digital copies of Sony films that have yet to be released. The hackers soon released embarrassing information, such as emails of Sony executives calling actress Angelina Jolie “a minimally talented spoiled brat.”

North Korea has denied any connection to the hacking, and some tech talking heads have questioned the connection between the country and the Guardians of Peace.

Large theater chains were cautious and have not shown the film.

“They were spooked and Sony was spooked,” Brein said. “And we were like everybody else, we had concerns. But I think more importantly, this is a signal for some of the larger chains. If they want to stop showing movies for fear of this group or that group, we are in a sorry state.”

After the film’s widespread release was snubbed, the hackers allegedly said that Sony could release the film as long as the assassination of Kim Jong-un was not “too happy.”

Press coverage of the hacking and “The Interview” may have, in turn, given the film more attention than it normally would have. Reviews from film websites and critics have been mixed, but mostly place it at 50/50, good and bad.

Mixed reviews may have to do with the brand of humor common to Rogen and Franco films.

“Seth Rogen is an interesting film maker,” Smith said. “He throws in social satire with his crude, drug-laden humor. There is a satirist in there. I’m not into the language and the crudeness, but I do like his satire. It’s in your face a little bit, but it is a legitimately funny movie.

“Reality TV shows are totally out of line and this totally mocks it,” he said.

Brein also got a few laughs from “The Interview.”

“I went opening night and the crowd loved it,” Brien said. “It’s not going to win an Academy Award. It’s just a plain-old-fun, laugh-a-minute type movie.”