The price of censorship: “The Interview” opens to sellout crowds while “Citizenfour” emerges as Best Picture contender.

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By Peter Lance December 25th, 2014. After Sony Pictures backed away from its earlier decision to shelve the Seth Rogen-James Franco parody following North Korea’s invasive hack on the company, the comedy, featuring the bloody fictional assassination of Kim Jong Un opened to capacity crowds in more than 300 theaters Christmas Day.

Reuters reported that the 12:30 a.m. screening in Los Angeles featured a surprise appearance by co-directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Meanwhile Sony made the film available online on Google Play, YouTube Movie, Microsoft’s Xbox Video in addition to the dedicated website www.seetheinterview.com  At each of those  sites the film can be rented for $5.99 or purchased for $14.99.

By 1:30 p.m. Christmas Day Deadline Hollywood was reporting that “The Interview” was the top seller on both the Google and YouTube movie sites.

Variety reported that “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.”

According to cnet.com another 85 U.S. theaters, all independents, are lined up to show the $44 million comedy January 2nd. As cnet’s Natalie Weinstein writes, “It’s a rather remarkable feat that the hackers — whom the FBI has linked to North Korea’s government — managed to turn an average, rather juvenile comedy into a freedom-of-speech phenomenon.”

Meanwhile, an unprecedented lawsuit against the producers of the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour, filed by an ex-Kansas state official and ARCO exec, has propelled that film into a contender for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

The suit filed in Kansas Federal Court December 19th by 89 year-old Edward Horace, who describes himself as a former U.S. Naval Officer with a “Q” security clearance, seeks damages from Snowden, the film’s director Laura Poitras and its distributors, for alleged “misuse of purloined information disclosed to foreign enemies.” 

But  according to The Hollywood Reporter, Edwards’ legal attack, in which he demanded that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences deny eligibility to the film for allegedly violating Oscar rules, backfired, when Academy officials rejected his claim.In fact, in a article filed December 3rd, The Reporter’s Gregg Kilday argued that Citizenfour, may well “Break The Best-Picture Curse,” in which documentaries have been traditionally excluded from the Academy’s highest honor.
In the piece I wrote following a screening of the film November both, I noted that despite the prediction of a Santa Barbara ticket taker who had initially denied me access to the film (as a member of The Writers Guild) CitizenFour had already arrived on several “Top 10″ lists for 2014.

 

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