Sony's 'Interview' VOD release causes mixed emotions

Sony's 'Interview' VOD release causes mixed emotions
Diana Bang as Sook, Seth Rogen as Aaron, and James Franco as Dave in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." (Ed Araquel / Columbia Pictures)

Theater owners say

Sony Pictures Entertainment

plans to release "The Interview" in the home as well as in theaters on Christmas Day, a move that is likely to heighten tensions between the embattled studio and cinema chains.

"Our film buyer was told by Sony that it ("The Interview") is supposed to be on VOD [video on demand] on Christmas Day," said Lyndon Golin, president of Regency Theatres. The Southern California theater chain was informed by Sony on Tuesday that it could screen "The Interview" at 10 of its 28 theaters.

"Nobody likes it but we understand the stress and strain on Sony," Golin said.

On Tuesday morning, the film buyer for Vintage Cinemas, which operates two theaters in Los Feliz and another in San Diego, also reached out to Sony and was told "The Interview" would be available to screen.

"But they were very up front and candid" that the film would also be released via video on demand on Christmas, said Lance Alspaugh, the company's chief executive.

"I'm not fond of it," said Alspaugh. "But, in this case, all bets are off."

Alspaugh said his Los Feliz 3 location will show the film on Dec. 25 despite the VOD release.

While smaller distributors increasingly release movies in the home on the same day they premiere in theaters, it's rare for a major studio like Sony to agree to such an arrangement.

Major theaters chains have traditionally been fiercely opposed to so-called day-and-date releases, fearing that releasing movies into the home would discourage consumers from watching it in movie theaters.