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Pirates Swarm Over ‘The Interview’ After Sony’s Digital Release

2 hours ago

Shortly after Sony Pictures Entertainment released “The Interview” on digital services Dec. 24, high-quality copies of the movie turned up on multiple piracy sites — and it’s already been downloaded at least 330,000 times within 12 hours.

On Wednesday, the studio announced the launch of “The Interview” on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own website, SeetheInterview.com, for $5.99 rental or $14.99 purchase. That came ahead of Sony’s planned U.S. theatrical release of the film to more than 300 independent theaters on Christmas Day.

However, Sony’s digital release of the movie is currently available only in the U.S. As such, it’s unsurprising that “The Interview” was quickly pirated, particularly given worldwide interest in the movie after the devastating hack on Spe and allegations by U.S. government that North Korea was responsible for the attack.

Poached copies of “The Interview” had been downloaded at least 330,000 times as of 6 a. »


- Todd Spangler

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Why I Forced My Parents to Watch ‘The Interview’

8 hours ago

The only movie theater playing “The Interview” near my family’s home in Fresno, Calif., was 40 miles away. I attempted to drag my parents along, but they weren’t in the mood for a holiday road trip. Instead, we streamed the comedy on our TV for $6. And we got to see it early, because Sony Pictures debuted it in homes a day before its limited theatrical run on Christmas.

My mom watched for 10 minutes before she disappeared to finish holiday errands. “Who wants salmon?” she asked, interrupting a string of penis and anus jokes in the R-rated satire about two U.S. journalists (James Franco and Seth Rogen) recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jung-un. When she returned for the last act, she promptly fell asleep on our couch. But my dad stayed awake, often laughing–to my great discomfort–at many of the cruder gags. »


- Ramin Setoodeh

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‘Unbroken’ Unseats ‘The Interview’ as Top TV Ad Spend

13 hours ago

In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by iSpot.tv, “Unbroken” returned to the top ad-spend spot, unsurprisingly ousting “The Interview” with an estimated outlay of $11 million over 1,693 national airings on 50 networks led by Cloo and USA Network.

Second on the list is newcomer “American Sniper,” which posted an estimated spend of $7.4 million across 713 national airings on 45 networks led by VH1 and MTV. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” hung on in third place with an estimated $6.5 million spent across 951 national airings on 47 networks led by MTV and Comedy Central.

The bottom of the list was filled by another pair of debut spots. “The Wedding Ringer” placed fourth with an estimated $5.6 million buying 659 national airings on 32 networks led by MTV and Comedy Central, while “Annie” rounded out the list at fifth with $45 million spent across 1,116 national airings on 31 networks led by Nick and Nick Toons. »


- iSpot.tv

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What is Kernel? The Stealth Startup Sony Tapped to Stream ‘The Interview’ (Exclusive)

16 hours ago

The digital distribution of “The Interview” has become the coming-out party for an interesting new venture operating in stealth mode in partnership with Sony Pictures.

The branding for Kernel is prominently displayed on the website on Seetheinterview.com, one of the digital homes Sony announced Wednesday would be streaming the controversial film day and date with hundreds of independent movie theaters.

But Kernel actually isn’t just what it appears to be on the website it built with Sony and other vendors, including online payment processor Stripe. The startup stepped into the crucial role of hosting the stream because of a pre-existing relationship with the movie studio to handle a very different task: To launch an innovative marketing campaign for “The 5th Wave,” a new action franchise starring Chloe Grace Moretz that Sony just began promoting Tuesday night even though it doesn’t bow in theaters until January 2016.

In an interview Wednesday with Variety, »


- Andrew Wallenstein

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Christmas Box Office: Sellouts Reported for ‘The Interview’

17 hours ago

Nearly all Christmas Day screenings of Sony’s “The Interview” have sold out at the 17 Alamo Drafthouse locations — an initial positive signal over the studio’s decision to go with independent theaters to release the political satire.

“We’re seeing filmgoers come out in droves,” Christian Parkes, chief branding officer for the Texas-based chain, told Variety.

Parkes also said that Alamo Drafthouse has started recording sellouts for the showings for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday screenings. The executive said that the massive publicity surrounding the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy and Sony Pictures Entertaiment has elevated awareness among customers to unprecedented levels.

“I can’t imagine what the people at Sony have been through,” he added. “But this is definitely the kind of publicity that you can’t buy. People were going to see the movie anyway but now they are telling us that they believe it’s their patriotic duty. »


- Dave McNary

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‘Hobbit’ Finale Crosses $100 Million Mark in U.S.

19 hours ago

Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” has wound up its first week in U.S. theaters by crossing the $100 million milestone.

Tuesday grosses for the finale of the New Line-mgm ‘Hobbit’ trilogy totaled $9.8 million, lifting “Five Armies” to $107.9 million.

That’s a faster pace than last year’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which took in $96 million in its first week in the U.S. on its way to a domestic total of $258 million. Though it’s not as fast 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which grossed $113 million in its first week and finished with $303 million in the U.S.

“Five Armies” is the third movie to pass $100 million in the U.S. in a week this year following Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” which grossed $168.7 million in its opening week, and Marvel-Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” with $134.4 million its first week. »


- Dave McNary

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‘Beetlejuice 2′ is ‘Closer Than Ever,’ Says Tim Burton

19 hours ago

The long-awaited “Beetlejuice” sequel may not be too far off, according to director Tim Burton.

While fans have been crossing their fingers for a “Beetlejuice 2″ since the original debuted in 1988, the rumor mill began churning in earnest back in 2013, when Variety reported that Burton and star Michael Keaton were in talks to return to the property.

Earlier this year, Keaton confirmed that he and Burton had discussed the possibility, but that his involvement in any potential sequel was dependent on Burton signing on: “I’ve emailed Tim a couple of times, talked to the writer a couple of times, but all really, really preliminary stuff,” the actor said. “I always said that’s the one thing I’d like to do again, if I ever did anything again. But it kind of required Tim to be involved some way or another.”

Now it appears that Burton may be ready »


- Variety Staff

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Sony Will Stream ‘The Interview’ through YouTube, Google, Xbox, Sony Site

21 hours ago

Sony Pictures Entertainment has set its streaming release plan for  “The Interview” on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own website http://www.seetheinterview.com for $5.99.

The streaming service will start at 10 a.m. Pst Wednesday.

The studio decided Tuesday to release the film to more than 300 U.S. theaters on Christmas. It can also be purchased in HD for $14.99.

“It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “With that in mind, we reached out to Google, Microsoft and other partners last Wednesday, December 17th, when it became clear our initial release plans were not possible. We are pleased we can now join with our partners to offer the film nation-wide today.”

The studio released the details on the streaming on Christmas Eve — a week after it »


- Andrew Wallenstein and Todd Spangler

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Christmas Box Office: ‘The Interview’ Eyes Strong Ticket Sales in Limited Release

23 December 2014 5:13 PM, PST

The Christmas box office for Sony’s “The Interview” will offer a case study on whether all publicity is actually good publicity.

Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” finale and Disney’s “Into the Woods” should battle for the top slot for the holiday weekend in the U.S. But the key question for many will be how the James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy delivers in limited release at several hundred independent theaters.

Sony could possibly see four-day grosses of about $3 million for “The Interview.” The studio is probably going to be handicapped by the theaters in which it’s playing, which lack the capacity of the major chains, and by having told the world on Dec. 17 that it wasn’t going to release the comedy at all.

Still, early reports indicate strong ticket sales for the theaters releasing the film, which is coming into the market with a consumer awareness unmatched in recent history. »


- Dave McNary

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Update: ‘The Interview’ Will Play in More Than 300 Theaters

23 December 2014 4:14 PM, PST

Update: Dec. 23, 6:36 p.m. Pst — After saying earlier on Tuesday that “The Interview” will play in more than 200 theaters, Sony has updated to say that the film will now play in more than 300 independent cinemas.

Previous: Less than a week after Sony pulled “The Interview” from theaters, the studio has reversed itself and set a limited theatrical release in the United States on Christmas Day.

The Interview,” directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, will now open in more than 200 independent cinemas rather than in the major chains, sources confirm. The studio’s original plan had been for a wide release on Christmas at about 3,000 locations.

“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview,’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment, in a statement. “At the same time, we are »


- Dave McNary

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Katherine Waterston Joins Steve Jobs Biopic Opposite Michael Fassbender

23 December 2014 3:43 PM, PST

Universal has tapped “Inherent Vice” actress Katherine Waterston to play Steve Jobs’ first wife Chrisann Brennan in Universal’s “Jobs,” opposite Michael Fassbender.

Seth Rogen is on board to play Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Danny Boyle will direct from Aaron Sorkin’s script, based on Walter Isaacson’s biography.

Scott Rudin, Mark Gordon and Guymon Casady are producing.

Universal picked up “Jobs” out of turnaround last month after Sony let it go.

Waterston portrayed a key role as Shasta Fay Hepworth in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice.” She is repped by UTA and Silver Lining Entertainment.

The news was first reported by Deadline.com.

»


- Dave McNary

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Directors & Their Troops: Morten Tyldum on His ‘Imitation Game’ Team

23 December 2014 3:18 PM, PST

Morten Tyldum makes his English-language directing debut with “The Imitation Game,” about British genius Alan Turing breaking the Nazis’ Enigma code. He and his production team worked under difficult circumstances because of the subject matter.  Tyldum said, “Iwanted to shoot some of it where it happened, with the real locations, real props. We were always reminded of the importance of what we were doing: Both in front of and behind the camera, everybody wanted to do justice to Alan Turing. We didn’t have craft service, didn’t have proper heating. But it was a tremendous experience because we became like a family on a mission.”

Cinematography, Oscar Faura

“I wanted the film to have a classic feel to it, an epic story style, yet there are a lot of interiors. I saw ‘The Impossible’ and knew I had found my d.p. He lights so beautifully. He has a poetic sense of realism, »


- Tim Gray

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Where to Watch ‘The Interview’ on Christmas Day

23 December 2014 2:51 PM, PST

After pulling “The Interview’s” Christmas Day release, Sony has reversed its decision and set a limited theatrical release in the U.S. for Dec. 25.

Sony has also announced plans to stream “The Interview” on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Xbox video and its own website beginning Dec. 24.

Here is a list of theaters screening “The Interview,” to be updated as more venues are confirmed.

Alabama

Andalusia – Clark Theatre 3

Birmingham – Edge 12

Boaz – Boaz Cinema 9

Enterprise – Clark Cinema 1 & 2

Fort Payne – Fort Payne Cinemas 6

Greenville – Edge Cinema 8

Huntsville – Madison Square Stadium 8

Troy – Continental Cinema 6

Arizona

Lake Havasu – Lake Havasu Cinema 10

Maricopa – Ak-Chin 12

Payson – Sawmill Theatres

Phoenix – Harkins Theatres

Scottsdale – Ultraluxe Scottsdale Pavillions 11

Show Low – Wme Theatre

Sierra Vista – Uptown 3 Theatre

Tempe – Harkins Valley Art

Tucson – Loft Cinema

Arkansas

Cabot – Silver Screen Cinemas 8

El Dorado – Stars Cinema 6

Hot Springs – Behind The Mall Cinema 5

Searcy – Cinema 8

Little Rock – Riverdale 10

California

Agoura Hill – Agoura Hills Stadium »


- Variety Staff

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‘Guardians’ Director James Gunn Says He Originally Planned to Kill Stan Lee in Cameo

23 December 2014 1:52 PM, PST

While discussing Marvel’s blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” on “The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith” podcast, director James Gunn revealed that Stan Lee was supposed to die during his cameo appearance in the movie.

Originally, Gunn had planned two scenarios with Lee — in the first, Lee would appear in the Collector’s museum and flip off Groot when he caught his eye. The second scenario would have Lee sitting in his box, the museum exploding, and Lee’s head rolling into frame.

The first tactic would require digitally placing Lee’s head over a double since he couldn’t make the shoot, and Gunn decided that the scene would be too similar to a previous scene, when Quill flips off the Nova Corps.

As far as killing Lee, Gunn told Goldsmith, “We very clearly saw Stan Lee’s box exploding, when the thing explodes. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it »


- Lisa Schulz

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Black Film Critics Circle Salutes ‘Selma’

23 December 2014 1:06 PM, PST

Paramount’s “Selma” easily swept the board with prizes from the Black Film Critics Circle, winning six awards, including best picture and acting ensemble.

The film also won for Ava DuVernay, director; David Oyelowo, actor; Carmen Ejogo, supporting actress; and Paul Webb, original screenplay.

Other winners include actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw for “Belle”; supporting actor J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”; adapted screenplay, Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”; cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”; foreign film, Poland’s “Ida”; documentary, the Alan Hicks-directed “Keep on Keepin’ On”; and animation, “The Lego Movie.”

Voting was done at the organization’s annual meeting in New York on Dec. 21.

In making the announcement, the org’s co-president Mike Sargent said, “This has been an incredibly diverse and progressive year for black film. Not only have we had dramas, comedies, thrillers and action films, 2014 has seen the rise of the black female director. This is also a year where we »


- Tim Gray

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Antonio Sanchez ‘Saddened’ That Oscar Nixes ‘Birdman’ Score

23 December 2014 12:51 PM, PST

Composer Antonio Sanchez on Tuesday said he is saddened and disappointed that Oscar’s music branch disqualified his score for “Birdman,” and that the Academy has upheld that decision in an appeal.

In a statement, Sanchez said, “It was an honor to work on this wonderful film and collaborate with a brilliant director like Alejandro González Iñárritu on ‘Birdman.’ I’m deeply disappointed that the music branch of the Academy did not recognize my score as eligible, even after receiving a detailed cue sheet, a letter from the president of music at Fox studios, and a description of the process from both Alejandro and myself.

“The disqualification seems to stem from the perception that my score was diluted by the incidental music on the film. I strongly disagree with this idea. The music that people remember after watching the movie is the sound, originality, character, and strength of my score, »


- Tim Gray

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Jim Gianopulos Selected for Will Rogers Foundation Honor

23 December 2014 12:50 PM, PST

The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation has chosen Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox, for its Pioneer of the Year honor.

The award will be presented April 22 at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

The organization noted that he oversaw “Titanic” and “Avatar” — the top-grossing movies of all time — during his tenure at the studio.

Fox has been the top-performing studio this year with “Gone Girl,” “Birdman,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Fox set a new record this year with more than $5 billion in worldwide receipts.

Gianopulos was previously chairman-ceo of Fox Film Entertainment. Before that, he was president of Twentieth Century Fox International.

Gianopulos sits on both the corporate and foundation boards of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. He has been a long-time supporter of the Pioneers Assistance Fund. »


- Dave McNary

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Oscars: 10 Things Voters Need to Know

23 December 2014 12:30 PM, PST

Voting for Oscar nominations runs Dec. 29-Jan. 8, and some folks may think it’s simply a matter of filling out a ballot. It is and it isn’t.

There are 17 branches in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, where voters submit nominations in their own category (directors nominate directors, and so on) and everybody nominates best picture. But it can be tricky. So here are some tips before voting.

1. Only one of your choices will be counted. The Oscar ballot asks you to enter up to 10 best picture favorites, and five in most other categories. The Academy and PricewaterhouseCoopers use preferential voting, a system designed to ensure that every voice is heard. But that means heard once. (The system is designed for elections where there is more than one “winner,” such as multiple Oscar nominees — as opposed to political balloting, designed to elect a sole winner.) So under preferential voting, »


- Tim Gray

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President Obama Hails Sony’s Theatrical Release of ‘The Interview’

23 December 2014 12:02 PM, PST

The White House has issued a strong statement of support for Sony Pictures’ decision to release “The Interview” on Christmas Day.

“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” the statement said. “As the president made clear, we’re a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film and we welcome that outcome.”

The statement came a few hours after the studio reversed its Dec. 17 announcement to withdraw “The Interview” and opted instead for a limited release to independent theaters — and four days after the president said Sony had “made a mistake” by pulling the Seth Rogen-James Franco satire out of theaters.

“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” he said at a press conference, in response to a question about whether »


- Dave McNary

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‘The Interview’ Release to Deepen Rift Between Sony, Major Exhibitors

23 December 2014 11:53 AM, PST

It looks like a bitter Christmas for owners of major theatrical chains in the U.S., thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s decision Tuesday for a limited release of “The Interview” in a few hundred independent cinemas — with a VOD release coming soon.

Exhibitors were already angry over last week’s move by Sony to make them the scapegoat for the Dec. 17 cancellation. Several executives told Variety that they only wanted the film’s premiere to be delayed or modified.

Following Sony’s announcement of a limited release for “The Interview,” the move is expected to only deepen the resentments that have emerged over the past week between the studio and major exhibition chains.

After the movie was pulled from theaters, the major chains expected not to show “The Interview” due to the plans for an imminent VOD release — violating the longstanding policy that major studios wait several months after »


- Dave McNary

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