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Sony says theaters no longer have to show The Interview, in wake of terrorist threats

James Franco (left) and Seth Rogen promote their new film The Interview Monday morning on SiriusXM.
James Franco (left) and Seth Rogen promote their new film The Interview Monday morning on SiriusXM.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Sony Pictures has taken the highly unusual step of telling theater owners they can drop planned showings of the film The Interview, according to the Wall Street Journal. The film is at the center of the hack of the company's computer systems, with today's release of stolen information by the hackers accompanied with a terrorist threat against any exhibitions of the film.

As the Journal notes:

Typically, studios and major theater chains work out plans on where and when a film will play months in advance and those plans can’t be changed once a studio is in the midst of a big marketing campaign.

Yet The Interview is scheduled to be released in just nine days, on Christmas Day.

A Department of Homeland Security official told the Wall Street Journal that there is no credible threat against screenings of the film at this time. But that the threat has even been made has many theater owners scrambling anyway. After all, many US theaters are in malls, shopping centers, and other busy public locations that contain many in addition to theater attendees themselves. Indeed, Carmike Cinemas, a sizable chain with 2,623 screens nationally, has opted to pull the film from its theaters, according to Variety.

Sony has obviously been exploring all of its angles in the wake of the threat. Indeed, it had been altering the film — which concerns the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — before the hack even happened, as reported by Gawker.

One other option explored was pulling the film entirely for a while, as tweeted by Journal deputy editor in chief Matt Murray.

Yet even without Sony taking that step, the damage has been done. The film's stars won't be promoting it on TV talk shows, and the film may see several of its showings pulled altogether. Even if the hackers couldn't drive The Interview from theaters entirely, it seems they may yet drive it into box office obscurity.

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