David Vitter watches The Interview at Chalmette Movies

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Sen. David Vitter, right, accepts a gift T-shirt from Ellis Fortinberry, a business partner and movie booker at Chalmette Movies. - KEVIN ALLMAN
  • KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Sen. David Vitter, right, accepts a gift T-shirt from Ellis Fortinberry, a business partner and movie booker at Chalmette Movies.

Sen. David Vitter has never been a fan of so-called Hollywood values — but Vitter is a fan of freedom, and last week he invited friends and supporters to join him at Chalmette Movies Dec. 29 for a screening of The Interview, the controversial R-rated comedy that has irked North Korean officials (and not impressed film critics).

The movie, which was originally scheduled for wide release, saw its plans scaled back when several theater chains announced they wouldn't show it — after which Sony Entertainment pulled the plug on distribution, only to reverse course after widespread criticism. The Interview was released on Christmas Day in theaters, and this weekend showed up as a $5.99 rental on various video-on-demand services.

In Louisiana, it was shown only in three cities: Chalmette, LaPlace and Shreveport, and Vitter — who had urged President Barack Obama to screen the movie for members of Congress — brought his wife Wendy to Chalmette Movies for a Monday matinee. In an email to supporters, the senator invited others to join them:

We all need to stand up to the North Korean dictatorship and in defense of freedom, and so I encourage you to see "The Interview." North Korea can’t have any reason to think that bullying and intimidation will threaten American principles like freedom of speech. Please keep in mind the "R" rating. I've heard it’s very crude.
Freedom isn't free, but at Chalmette Movies, it's a bargain: It was $6.50 to watch a Monday matinee of The Interview, but an informal survey of people at the box office indicated that most were there to see Annie (starring Houma native Quvenzhane Wallis) or The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Sen. David Vitter and his wife Wendy hand over their tickets to see The Interview. - KEVIN ALLMAN
  • KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Sen. David Vitter and his wife Wendy hand over their tickets to see The Interview.

"I just reacted the way a lot of folks have, thinking that this is absolutely ridiculous bullying from North Korea," Vitter told Gambit. "As Americans, we make our own decisions about what to see and not see, and we're not going to let a dictator or a terrorist make those decisions for us." Asked if he knew The Interview was a raunchy, stoner comedy, Vitter said, "Apparently. ... If not for Kim Jong-Il, I'm not sure I ever would have seen it." Vitter, a self-described movie buff ("a lot of Netflix"), couldn't recall the last film he'd attended, other than it had to have been with his 12-year-old son Jack.

Numerous cybersecurity experts have expressed dubiety that North Korea could be capable of a cyberattack as devastating as the one launched against Sony Entertainment, but Vitter said he hadn't heard those theories. "Well, that's what all the evidence certainly points to," he said.

Vitter was presented with a T-shirt that read "London • Paris • Rome • Chalmette Movies" by Ellis Fortinberry, the theater's movie booker and business partner, before he and wife Wendy went into Theater 5 for the screening, where about 35 people had gathered, watching trailers for Terminator: Genisys and Jurassic World

Fortinberry said the movie had been a boon for the independent theater. "We've had people from Mississippi, Baton Rouge, Slidell — a lot of people," he said.

In addition to supporting Americans' right to watch what they choose, Vitter urged moviegoers to donate an amount equal to the ticket price to the Wounded Warrior Project; he said he was kicking in $1,000. 


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