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Sony Cancels Release of "The Interview" After Terrorist Threats (Update)

Canceling screenings of $44 million film "The Interview" is sure to hurt Sony's bottom line.

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures Entertainment has canceled theatrical screenings “The Interview” after threats of violence following a catastrophic computer attack, the company said in a statement.

“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like,” the studio said.

The move follows a decision by the nation’s largest theater owners not to screen the film.

Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Holdings Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas have chosen not to show the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, which was originally scheduled to debut on Christmas Day, out of concern for the safety of its patrons and employees, a source said. New York’s Landmark cinemas canceled the local premiere of “The Interview,” scheduled for Thursday.

A hacking group that claimed responsibility for the studio’s crippling computer breach threatened violence against theaters screening the film. The film depicts an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The latest move spotlights the widening economic impact of the hack attack. The four major movie chains altogether control over 18,000 screens in the U.S. Postponing “The Interview,” which reportedly cost $44 million, will certainly hurt Sony’s sales for the year. The holiday movie season accounts for roughly 20 percent of Hollywood’s total year box office, according to research firm Rentrak.

Sony is now considering releasing it via cable or satellite services as a video-on-demand play, according to Variety.

The U.S. Department of Homeland security said there’s no “credible intelligence” to indicate a plot against movie theaters within the United States. Still, the threat of violence posed a serious problem for theater owners who were balancing the desire to support the film against safety concerns for their patrons. Caution won out — for now.

In a statement, Regal said, “Due to the wavering support of the film ‘The Interview’ by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats, Regal Entertainment Group has decided to delay the opening of the film in our theatres.” AMC, Cinemark and Carmike did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, some major Hollywood studios are maneuvering behind the scenes to elbow the R-rated comedy out of theaters, according to people familiar with the situation. Memories of the 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colo., at a late-night screening of Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” still haunts Hollywood.

The exhibitor’s trade organization, the National Association of Theatre Owners, issued a statement Wednesday indicating that exhibitors were likely to postpone bringing the film to theaters.

“We look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended,” NATO said in its statement. “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.”

Updated with Sony decision to cancel the film.

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