Facing terrorist threats from the same group that committed a massive cybersecurity attack of its network and the public dissemination of proprietary content, Sony is moving forward with the release of The Interview, the James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
However, sources close to the film confirm a Deadline report that the studio will support the theater chains’ decision whether or not to screen the film when it opens on Dec. 25, in light of potential safety concerns. Carmike Cinemas, one of the country’s largest chains with 2,917 screens in 41 states, has already decided to pull The Interview from its theaters, and the Landmark theater in Manhattan cancelled its plans to host the New York premiere of the film on Thursday night. In addition, Bow Tie Cinemas, which has 350 screens in six states, has also announced it will not screen the film.
“We at Bow Tie Cinemas are saddened and angered by recent threats of terrorism in connection with the movie, The Interview. It is our mission to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees. Given that the source and credibility of these threats is unknown at the time of this announcement, we have decided after careful consideration not to open The Interview on Dec. 25, 2014 as originally planned. We hope that those responsible for this act are swiftly identified and brought to justice.”
In the most recent public statement from the Guardians of Peace, the anonymous group that penetrated Sony’s computer network, their political posturing took a threatening tone that invoked a 9/11-level attack at theaters that screen the film. “Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made,” read the missive. “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”
The North Korean government has denied knowledge or involvement in the cyberattack, but back in June, the country’s state media called the film an “act of war.”
UPDATE (12/17 1:54 P.M. ET): The National Association of Theatre Owners released a statement:
“The ability of our guests to enjoy the entertainment they choose in safety and comfort is and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. While we do not discuss security procedures or policies, NATO members are working closely with the appropriate security and law enforcement agencies. We are encouraged that the authorities have made progress in their investigation and we look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended. Until that happens, individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season experiencing the many other exciting films we have to offer.”
AMC, Regal, and Carmike did not immediately respond to EW‘s request for comment. Sony declined to comment on the latest development.