Sony Tells Theater Owners They Can Pull ‘The Interview’

The Interview Seth Rogen James Franco

Sony has told theater owners they can pull “The Interview” if they want to — the decision lies in their hands. Exhibitors are considering whether they should pull the film in advance of its wide release this Christmas, but Sony remains committed to the planned opening.

Multiplex owners were caught by surprise Tuesday after hackers evoked the memory of 9/11 while threatening theaters that play the comedy about an attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The studio has remained mum on the latest message from the hackers and the Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying they have not yet discovered evidence of an active plot against U.S. theaters.

Some theater owners were adamant that they wouldn’t change plans.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Tom Stephenson, CEO of Look Cinemas. “If they play it, we’ll show it. Sony has a right to make the movie, we have a right to play it and censorship in general is a bad thing.”

The majority of theater owners reached by Variety declined to comment publicly, but most said they still planned to show the film, but would take additional security measures. One owner confessed that he was still processing the note and had yet to reach a decision.

Stocks for the country’s four largest theater chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — all fell after news of the threat broke.

In the interim, “The Interview” stars Seth Rogen and James Franco cancelled all media appearances on Tuesday and Wednesday, but still plan to attend at the New York premiere on Thursday.

Exhibition industry analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners said it is still unclear if the threats have any merit, and said he doesn’t think theaters will take the step of pulling out of showing the film without more concrete evidence.

“It ultimately comes down to security,” said Handler. “If there are concerns about actual terrorist acts than you have to think about pulling it…but there is no evidence that this cyber attack will escalate to anything above or beyond that.”

Executives at rival studios are concerned that the threats will dampen attendance during one of the busiest moviegoing periods of the year. There’s also concern about isolated incidents stemming from those who might be inspired by the broad coverage of the threats raised by the Sony hackers.

Regardless of whether or not the threats turn out to be idle, security experts say that the hackers message underscores vulnerabilities at entertainment venues. It was a danger that was brought brutally home two years ago when James Holmes opened fire during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado killing 12 people, and one that may factor into theater owners minds when it comes to showing “The Interview.”

“We haven’t done enough to enhance security in places where people gather,” said Todd McGhee, president of Protecting the Homeland Innovations and a trainer of the anti-terrorism unit at Boston’s Logan International Airport. “We’ve done a lot to harden our security around infrastructure, mass transit and airports, but we’ve left a lot of our private sector vulnerable.”

On Sony’s Culver City lot, security measures have been stepped up substantially since the hackers first breached the company’s cyber defenses over two weeks ago. There is more of a security presence at all the gate entrances and employees have been told that there’s more measures that are in place that are not visible. A telephone tip line has also been set up internally for people to report any suspicious activity.

The general feeling on the lot, insiders say, is one of exhaustion and a deepening anxiety about what shoe will drop next.

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  1. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    “This threat must be considered enough of a threat to pull the Film.” Plus what exhibitor would screen it at this point in time? Even with Homeland Security not finding a legitimate concern, there could be a copycat attack. Sony is not in the position to test these unknown waters in light of the hacking attack which was very real!

  2. Sojourner Truth says:

    These people need to take their testosterone shots. What a bunch of shrinking violets! A hacker isn’t going to jump you in a movie theater!!!

  3. Lily White says:

    Maybe one of the problems the rest of the world has with the USA is that we have no respect for anyone including ourselves. We are the fattest, most in debt country in the world. Let’s try to get along.

  4. Lily White says:

    Good. Make sure after you pull it, you follow up with an apology.

  5. Joe Hughes says:

    the “hackers” (No. Korean Gov)
    will… just like all its other weekly threats to a annihilate the world, end in a fizzle. ya I said it. hahaha play the damn movie

  6. Contessa46 says:

    My patriotic streak says run it and screw the Korean pres, with. NO sense of humor! My sensible streak says recut the film and edit out the offensive part and recoup your investment. All this electronic terrorism is new and will have to be dealt with asap. We are all now vulnerable. But, if we are to remain a “free country” with our values of what freedom entails, we must go forth while at the same time protecting our selves, our investments and our country

  7. ray costa says:

    ThIs is what terrorists do. They make people live in fear. I hope the theaters don’t surrender to threats. Let’s make the film a hit by seeing it and fighting terrorism. :)

  8. ted says:

    Frack the bad guys. I’m going opening weekend.

  9. Okay, I’m a contrarian. I think The Interview is a dumb concept, and I think Sony was dumb to green light it without beefing up their IT security. In my humble opinion, everybody involved should step back and think about the power of cinema in geopolitics. Watch Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. I think Seth Rogan took a wrong turn in making the film literal. And again, I’m sorry, but if Sony decided to pull the tiger’s tail, they should have been prepared for the consequences. This will go down as a signal failure of corporate intelligence.

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      Chaplin ended his life in the USA with deportation issues. After all he had done to put smiles on American’s faces in some pretty damn rough times, our Government told him to get out! Sad…

    • Tim says:

      Hollywood has a long, documented history of ridiculing certain groups, customs, ethnicities still to this day. Well they picked on the wrong chump this time.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      I guess in your opinion, no film should be made about any living figure, and even those dead, if it pokes fun at them or mocks them. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of films that are similar in aim as “the interview”. For reference, check out many films made during WWII that poked at Hitler.

      • Braden says:

        @Community – As you said yourself, “That’s not the point, idiot.”

        The point is a ‘free society’ is in rapid decline, especially in the Western world. It’s even more concerning when ‘free people’ surrender the right to act freely (this includes making a fictional garbage movie about a controversial political figure) under the guise of ‘safety and security.’ By giving empty threats like this credence you’re giving them power.

        To paraphrase a great man, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – B. Franklin.
        (Yes, I realize the context of this quote is more fiscal than ‘terror’ based, but nevertheless it’s apt to the situation at hand.)

      • Community says:

        That’s not the point idiot. If the Interview actually offered up something worthwhile it would be one thing to stand by their guns, but it’s basically a garbage movie not something worth betting the company on – not worth the trouble.

  10. WTF Guy says:

    Don’t Pull It!

  11. Paramount Employee says:

    The United States does not negotiate with terrorists!

    But Sony Pictures does.

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