Sony Pictures Hastily Pulls TV Spots for ‘The Interview’

As Sony Pictures tabled the scheduled Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” the studio is said to be hastily pulling the remaining TV spots booked to promote the James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy.

Sony has already spent an estimated $18.5 million in total on TV blurbs to market the movie about two hapless celeb gossips who are sent by the CIA on a covert mission to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Sony has been running spots for “Interview” since June and as of last week had a rotation of 823 blurbs (14 different cuts in all) running across 30 channels, led by Comedy Central and Turner’s TruTV, according to data tracking by iSpot.TV, which projected “Interview” as leading the list of movie advertising on TV last week.

The comedy has sparked outrage in North Korea and is believed to be the reason that Sony Pictures was the target of a massive hack of its computer systems last month. The studio has faced the equivalent of cyber-waterboarding during the past few weeks as bits and pieces of highly sensitive data, from the company and individuals, as well as personal emails have been disseminated to the media by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace.

The org on Tuesday issued its most menacing threat yet, vowing to launch 9/11-style attacks on theaters that play the movie. The threat of violence against moviegoers — a situation that became all too real in 2012 with the deadly shooting rampage during a screening in Aurora, Colo., of “The Dark Knight Rises” — was enough to persuade exhib honchos to drop the movie. “Interview” was scheduled to open during one of the winter’s busiest moviegoing weekends, which has spurred anger on the part of other studios that the “Interview” battle could dampen moviegoing overall during the Christmas holiday period.

By Wednesday afternoon, Sony Pictures had little choice but to bow to the pressure and table the theatrical release. There’s talk that the studio may pursue a premium VOD release in an effort to salvage some part of its investment.

Sony’s decision to pull as many TV and radio spots as possible, first reported by Deadline, as the exhibitor revolt snowballed is no surprise.

Execs at several networks that had booked “Interview” blurbs declined comment. There’s no word yet if Sony Pictures will seek to hold on to any of the buys by swapping in spots for another movie or other project.

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