Many in the sold-out crowd sang along to Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” shown before the initial screening of Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” at the Plaza Theatre Thursday. The movie, and the singing, served as a statement from many theatergoers that a foreign power would not dictate what forms of entertainment Americans could or could not enjoy.
The Plaza was one of the first theaters in the country to show the comedy that depicts a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after its Christmas wide release was canceled due to threats of terrorism from North Korea. All five of the theater’s five Thursday screenings were sold out.
“I think it’s very important that this movie be shown,” said John Prawat of Marietta. “We can’t allow a dictator of some foreign country to determine what we’re able to see or read or learn about in this country. If they’re able to get away with it this time, what’s to stop them next time from telling us, ‘You can’t read this book,’ ‘We object to this news coverage that’s not favorable to our country.’ There’s a principle at stake.”
While Prawat said he was planning to see the movie before its cancellation, as he is a fan of its stars, Seth Rogen and James Franco, Marci McCarthy of Brookhaven said she wouldn’t have come otherwise.
“This is not my usual movie repertoire, but at the end of the day, I think it’s important that we’re supporting our freedom of speech and what we can see,” she said.
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Alex Spivey of Newnan had a much different reason for getting his ticket to the film – he wanted to support an independent theater not afraid to show the controversial flick.
“I’m happy to come see it in person in a theater that was willing from the beginning to show the film,” he said, adding that he bought his ticket at the box office just after they became available Tuesday.
“I thought it was pretty crazy that here in America, we might have had an international incident over a stupid comedy.”
Spivey’s hour-long drive from Newnan didn’t make him the most non-local of The Plaza’s patrons Thursday. That honor likely went to Jessica Duffy, who was in Atlanta as part of a cross-country vacation from her home in Melbourne, Australia.
“We were really disappointed when Sony said they were not going to show it at all anywhere,” she said. “We’ve been following it on the news and TV, hoping and praying that they were going to release it, because we really love James Franco and Seth Rogen and their movies, and so we were really stoked that they were doing this movie (here).”
The theater’s showing of “The Interview” on both its screens is what Plaza spokesman Christopher Escobar called “unprecedented,” as it normally would show two to four different movies throughout the course of the day.
“What would’ve been playing would be some additional screenings of some films that had already been playing, as well as a few repertory films, like we would have been doing some screenings of ‘Die Hard,’ for example, the usual mix of Plaza stuff, which is mostly independent or art-house films with a mix of classic or repertory films,” Escobar said.
Though The Plaza began its screenings of the film on Thursday, those wanting to see it could do so starting a day earlier. Sony made it available Wednesday on four digital platforms - Google Play, Xbox Video, YouTube and seetheinterview.com. The movie can be rented for $5.99 or purchased for $14.99.
But some movie fans in and around Atlanta were seemingly still desiring the big-screen experience for “The Interview.” As of Thursday afternoon, more than 300 tickets at $10 apiece had been sold for The Plaza’s five Friday screenings, Escobar said.
The theater is selling online tickets for its “Interview” showings through Sunday, while those seeking admission for any screening through Thursday can buy tickets at the box office.