Sony Pictures Entertainment has chosen to stand down for “The Interview,” deciding against releasing the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy in any form — including VOD or DVD, as U.S. officials reportedly link Sony’s massive cyber attack to North Korea.
“Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film,” a spokesman said Wednesday.
The studio issued the statement a few hours after pulling the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview” in the U.S. in response to the hackers who threatened a 9/11-style attack against U.S. theaters and moviegoers if the comedy were released.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the studio had removed any mention of “The Interview” from its official web site.
The move could open the door for Sony to sell the rights to a rival distributor — though Hollywood is still reeling from Tuesday’s invocation of a possible terrorist attack on exhibitors if they screened “The Interview.”
Prior to the decision to pull the controversial movie, a Sony Pictures insider had told Variety that the studio was weighing releasing the film on premium video-on-demand. Such a move would have allowed the studio to recoup some of the film’s $42 million budget and tens of millions in promotion and advertising expenditures.
Sony’s nightmare began on Nov. 24 when the “Guardians of Peace” hackers disabled the studio’s computer system and began disclosing internal documents, email messages, film budgets, executive salaries and the social security numbers of thousands of employees.
“The world will be full of fear,” the group’s Tuesday message said. “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.)”
In response, most of the country’s largest theater chains — including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Southern Theatres — announced they would either delay showing the picture or would drop it altogether.
“The Interview” centers on an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
On Wednesday, several published reports said that federal authorities had determined that hackers working on behalf of the North Korean government were behind the hack attack. CNN’s Evan Perez said that an announcement is expected on Thursday that would “assign attribution” to the country.
“The Interview” has been scheduled for release in foreign markets starting in late January.