The Grand Cinema shows films other theaters don’t.
That usually means screening small pictures, executive director Philip Cowan said of the Tacoma theater.
But Thursday, it meant showing a would-be blockbuster barred from major release after failing to jump through geopolitical hoops.
“It still kind of fit our mission, even though it wasn’t a typical Grand Cinema film,” Cowan said of “The Interview.”
Seth Rogan and James Franco star in the picture, in which the duo are tasked with taking out the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures pulled the movie after hackers threatened to attack theaters that showed it Christmas Day. The United States has suggested North Korea was behind the ordeal. Sony later reconsidered and released the movie online and to several hundred independent cinemas across the country.
That’s where the Grand came in.
“We’re part of kind of a loose organization of independent cinemas from around the country called The Art House Convergence,” Cowan said. “Some of the leaders of that group said: ‘Hey, I think we might be an avenue for Sony to be able to play this film.’ They reached out to us.”
And it happened fast.
Conversations started Sunday, and Tuesday afternoon the Grand learned it could show the movie.
“We plan films a long time in advance,” Cowan said. “It’s never done this quick.”
The theater wouldn’t have shown the comedy, he said, were it not for the canceled release of the film.
He said some people feel the major picture isn’t the right fit for the Grand, but Cowan noted that no other movies had to be taken off the schedule to show it, and he expects it will get new faces in the door, who he hopes will return to see other flicks.
The community seemed eager to see the film. The 9:20 p.m. release quickly sold out, prompting the theater to plan a second screening at 11 p.m. Christmas Day. The theater then had to add a third showing at 11:20 p.m.
Some at the Grand said they were just there to see a funny movie, but most were interested in the news surrounding the film.
“I’m interested in the controversy over it,” said 28-year-old Dallas Madsen of Tacoma before the show started. “I’m sure it’s a disposable comedy. But it’s Christmas. Why not see a movie the whole world is talking about?”
John Ross, 25 of Tacoma, said he thinks keeping the film out of major theaters has drawn more attention to it.
“I’m not necessarily a fan of comedy, but I am interested in controversy,” Ross said. “I think I’m going to be live-tweeting about it while I’m in there.”
Releasing the film is a way to stand up to hackers, said Sulja Warnick, a Tacoma woman in her 70s waiting to see the movie.
“It’s important to keep this going,” she said. “I think it’s important that people are not threatened by hackers.”
She was interested to see how the movie portrayed Kim Jong Un.
It will show at 9:20 p.m. daily at the Grand through Jan. 1, and likely longer, Cowan said.
Theaters in Yelm, Seattle and Oak Harbor, among other places, are also showing the film.