Sony Shuts Down Christmas Day Release of 'The Interview'

interview
A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film "The Interview" in Los Angeles, California December 11, 2014. Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

Updated 5:25 p.m. | Sony Pictures will not be screening The Interview on its scheduled release date, December 25th, after the five largest movie theater circuits in the United States—AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, Regal Entertainment and Cineplex Entertainment— pulled the upcoming movie from their theaters nationwide following a serious threat by cyberterrorists who want it canceled, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employers and theater-goers," Sony Pictures said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday night, Carmike Cinemas, which boasts theaters in 41 states, confirmed that it will not be screening the film. The 350 nationwide screens of Bow Tie Cinemas have elected not to screen The Interview and neither will Hollywood-based ArcLight Cinemas.

The controversial film, which lampoons the assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong Un, was listed as a reason for a string of high-profile email hacks of the film's distributor, Sony Entertainment. Among the leaks were films and sensitive e-mails between executives, producers and actors. On Tuesday, the cyberterrorist cohort reportedly behind the hacks threatened possible 9/11-esque attacks on moviegoers and a "bitter fate" upon theaters that elected to screen The Interview, according to Deadline.

A spokesman from the Department of Homeland Security told BBC News that the threats didn't constitute any "credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against cinemas," but that they were investigating the claims.

A few months back, North Korea warned of "merciless retaliation" if the film were to be released. North Korea declined involvement in the recent Sony hacking incident, but commended the anonymous group of cyberterrorists for their actions earlier this month, calling it a "righteous deed."

In the same statement, Sony claimed the recent hacks had been "criminal assault," and said that "those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private e-mails and sensitive and proprietary materials, and sought to destroy our spirit and morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like."

The Interview's two co-stars, Seth Rogen and James Franco, have canceled all planned media appearances and press dates surrounding the film's December 25 release. Buzzfeed reports that the film's New York premiere, scheduled for Thursday, 12/18, has also been called off.

Sony stated earlier this week that it would understand if cinemas nationwide elected to bar The Interview from screening on its Christmas Day release, and said the decision was up to individual theater owners. On Wednesday, New Regency confirmed to Variety that it has scrapped a Gore Verbinski-directed forthcoming thriller set in North Korea, which have starred Steve Carell. The entertainment company did not indicate why it ceased its production of the film.

The threat by the "Guardians of Peace" reads as follows:

Warning

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places "The Interview" be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.

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.

All the world will denounce the SONY.

Sony Entertainment did not reply for comment.