After Sony Pictures announced yesterday that it was pulling the release of The Interview, a film about two American journalists sent to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, from its scheduled Christmas Day release after threats of movie theater terrorism, several theaters across the U.S. said that they would show Team America: World Police instead.
The basic idea was to replace one movie mocking the North Korean regime with another. Team America, an all-puppet comedy from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, pits its heroes against a sad-sack version of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. At the end of the movie, he's impaled on a giant spike, and it's revealed that he's actually an alien cockroach. Fitting!
Now, however, it looks like moviegoers may not get to see either film on the big screen any time soon. The Daily Beast reports that theaters in Cleveland and Atlanta that had planned to make the switch say that Paramount, the studio behind Team America, has ordered them to stop. The Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, which also planned to show the puppet comedy, announced on Twitter this afternoon that due to "circumstances beyond our control" its Team America screening has been cancelled.
Paramount apparently hasn't provided any reason why it's ordering the shows to be stopped.
I am partially sympathetic to Sony's decision to pull The Interview from theaters. It is obviously a very bad precedent that is already causing pernicious downstream effects on the rest of the movie industry, and is likely to have a chilling effect on the broader media ecosystem. But it's also at least somewhat understandable given the decision by theater owners to not show the film, the risks (however small and unlikely), the reality of the hacks, and the potential legal liability. (Declining to release the movie in any form, including home video or digital distribution, is less defensible.)
But blocking replacement screenings of Team America can really only be described as next-level cowardly bullshit.
It's an absurd and ridiculous overreaction. This is a movie that Americans and others across the world have already seen, that was not targeted in the hack attacks, that was released by a different studio entirely, and that is available to watch in clips online. Aren't movie studios supposed to be in the business of trying to get people to watch their movies?
Thank goodness for the Internet. Here's Kim Jong-il's death/alien cockroach reveal scene:
And while we're at it, here's the death scene for Kim Jong-un that would have appeared at the end of The Interview:
Watch them both here, online, because it sure sounds like you aren't going to get to see them in theaters.