Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, Cineplex, and AMC Entertainment will delay or drop “The Interview” after Sony Pictures Entertainment hackers posted a message threatening movie theaters and moviegoers who attend screenings of the satire.
They represent four of the five largest chains, and join Bow Tie Cinemas and Carmike in deciding not to show the picture. More theater circuits are expected to follow suit.
In addition, Southern Theatres, B&B Theatres, Wehrenberg Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas have opted to pass on the film. Michigan-based MJR Digital Cinemas said it will likely not play the picture, although CEO Michael Mihalich said that could change if the security situation around the picture improves in coming days.
Sony Pictures still plans to make the film available, but has told theater chains it will support them if they choose not to show the picture.
“It’s much less of a big deal to pull the film than it is to risk something happening,” said Eric Wold, an exhibition industry analyst with B. Riley and Company. “It makes no sense for a theater to choose to show this movie.”
The Department of Homeland Security released a statement this week saying that there was no evidence of an active plot against movie theaters, but exhibitors are worried about legal liability if violence breaks out at one of the film’s screenings. There is also the possibility that the hackers’ message might inspire copycat attacks, according to knowledgable insiders.
Some analysts believe that North Korea has been involved in the devastating cyber-attack on Sony as retaliation for “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un. The country has denied involvement but praised the hackers.
Hackers have leaked internal company documents, salary information, budget details and the social security numbers of thousands of Sony’s past and present employees.
In a message Tuesday, hackers wrote: “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.”
Other chains contacted by Variety such as Celebration! Cinemas and Malco Theatres said they had yet to reach a final decision.
More to come…