In the wake of a threatening message from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hackers, the National Association of Theatre Owners said that theaters are working with law enforcement agencies to tighten security procedures.
In its first public statement on the threats, the exhibition industry lobbying arm said that a criminal investigation into the cyber-security breach at Sony was progressing, but said its members would make their own calls about whether to release the film.
“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,” the group’s statement reads. “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.”
So far, Carmike Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas have opted not to screen “The Interview.” Sony Pictures has told exhibitors that they plan to release the film, but will support their decision if they opt not to screen it in their theaters.
Sony has been reeling for weeks since hackers broke into the studio’s computer system and stole internal documents, budgets, salary details and the personal information of thousands of employees. The documents and records were subsequently leaked online, setting off a firestorm of media coverage.
Tuesday’s message accompanied another data dump. It threatened violence on theaters that showed “The Interview” and people who attend screenings.
“The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “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 Interview” is a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. There has been speculation that the country may be involved in the hacking as retaliation for the film, though it has denied involvement.
Here’s the full 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.”