Sony acted to drop plans for a Christmas Day release of the film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen (with a key part for Lizzy Caplan) after the nation's bigger theater chains said they weren't going to screen the movie because of hacker threats. Sony said it would not hold the theater owners to their contracts. This is the biggest reaction yet to the hacker attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment in a massive theft and extortion plot that still does not have clear motives or perpetrators.
Communications from possible hackers threatened violence at theaters if the film about an assassination of North Korea ruler Kim Jong-un ran as scheduled. After leading chains such as AMC, Cinemark, Carmike and Regal Entertainment decided not to open the film on Christmas, Sony said in a statement today that “we respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”
Pressure came from the shopping malls where theaters are located, and from studio competitors upset about the impact of Sony's troubles on the rest of the industry. Filmmaker Judd Apatow reacted to Sony's decision with a fiery string of tweets calling the move "disgraceful."
The New York Times take:
On Tuesday a threat of terrorism against theaters that show “The Interview” was made in rambling emails sent to various news outlets. The threat read in part, “Remember the 11th of September 2001.” The emails aimed the threat at “the very times and places” at which “The Interview” was to play in its early showings.
Once the hackers threatened physical violence, the film’s cancellation became almost inevitable, even though Sony had spent a day maintaining its plans for the release and premiere. Since the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting in 2012, Cinemark had fought lawsuits with a defense that said the incident was not foreseeable — a stance that would have been virtually impossible with “The Interview."
The film’s collapse stirred considerable animosity among Hollywood companies and players. Theater owners were angry that they had been boxed into leading the pullback. Executives at competing studios privately complained that Sony should have acted sooner or avoided making the film altogether….
The incident is likely to be remembered as a failure of Hollywood leadership. As the attack progressed, both studios and the industry’s Washington-based trade associations — the theater association and the Motion Picture Association of America — remained in a defensive posture, and ultimately found no way to save the film or to stem the flow of Sony’s private data, which has been released online by hackers in waves since Nov. 24.
Wired magazine today posted a story headlined North Korea Almost Certainly Did Not Hack Sony, but the hed is a reach. The story makes a few surmises and contains the good point that the initial communications from the hackers did not mention "The Interview," but Wired offers really nothing educated about who is behind the attack. So it remains a mystery.
Also today, New Regency has dropped plans for a North Korea-set thriller that was to star Steve Carrell, the Hollywood Reporter says.