NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Sony is preparing on Tuesday to announce a release plan for “The Interview” that involves special screenings at a limited number of theaters, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Two theaters in Atlanta and Austin said on Twitter on Tuesday that they had agreed to show the film, which is about an assassination plot against the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. It is widely believed that Sony Pictures suffered a cyberattack last month partly due to North Korea’s fury over the movie.
Sony may also release the the controversial Seth Rogen comedy through a video-on-demand service.
Sony has yet to officially announce the plan, and its most important constituency — owners of big movie theater chains — remain silent about whether they might show it.
Meanwhile, six of out 10 Americans think Sony overreacted by canceling the Christmas release of “The Interview.” And with each passing day, more of those people — including writers, independent theater owners and members of Congress — are speaking out.
But a petition titled “We the undersigned support Sony” started to pick up steam on Monday on the web site Change.org. It was published by Art House Convergence, an association of independent theaters across the country.
Backers pledged to stand by Sony and “support theatrical engagements of ‘The Interview’ should Sony, at its sole discretion, decide to release it to theaters.”
It is unclear how many of the 220 signatures actually come from theater owners. But one of the signers, Josh Levin, the operator of the West End Cinema in Washington, D.C., wrote on Facebook that he had backed the petition because “I refuse to allow bullies to dictate what I can and cannot show.”
That same sentiment has been widespread on social media among people who now want to see the movie in order to make a statement. A growing number of organizations and politicians are offering to hold screenings.
Last week the web site Gawker said it would rent a theater and buy the popcorn if Sony provided a copy of the movie.
Over the weekend the Republican National Committee sent a letter to major theater owners, urging them to show “The Interview,” and pledging to support the release by encouraging members of its mailing lists to go see it.
On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, RNC communications director Sean Spicer told me “we would love” to hold a screening at the committee’s headquarters.
And on Monday, Congressman Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, told Sony he wants to hold a screening on Capitol Hill. Sherman is the chairman of the Entertainment Industries Caucus.
“Screening ‘The Interview’ will demonstrate the U.S. Congress’s support of the freedom of speech,” Sherman said in a letter to Sony executives.
Perhaps acknowledging some of the poor reviews of the comedy, he added, “Good or bad, Americans should not be deprived of the opportunity to see this movie.”
The literary group PEN American Center also offered to hold a screening on Monday. In a letter to Sony signed by Salman Rushdie, Stephen Sondheim, Jennifer Egan, Tony Kushner, and others, PEN called this “a genuine offer and one that we hope you will take seriously.”
According to a new CNN/ORC poll, conducted December 18 through 21 and released on Tuesday, 36% of Americans think Sony made the right decision by canceling the movie, while 62% thought it was an overreaction. Men were about 20 percentage points more likely than women to call it an overreaction.
President Obama placed himself in the “Sony overreacted” camp last week when he said at a Friday news conference that the company “made a mistake” by pulling the movie.
Sony, for its part, says it had little choice but to cancel the Christmas release after major theater chains backed out of plans to put it on their screens.
Sony theoretically could have enlisted smaller art house theaters for help, but the movie cost $44 million to make and was intended to have a wide release on thousands of screens, not a limited release.
What will the company do now? It is in active discussions with a wide array of potential distributors, including digital ones that could stream the movie to viewers via the Internet.