Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET
Sony Pictures has canceled the Christmas Day release of The Interview, the comedy that centers on a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader. The move came after the largest U.S. movie theater chains said they won’t screen the film in the wake of threats against them by a group that also allegedly hacked Sony’s internal documents.
“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
Update at 8:09 p.m. ET: U.S. Believes North Korea Was Behind Hack
Agreeing with speculation that has built since Sony Pictures was hacked, U.S. intelligence officials say they believe North Korea played a key role in the computer breach.
Our original post continues:
Multiple news sources, including The Hollywood Reporter, say Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment will not screen the film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Together, the chains control about half of North America’s movie screens.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the theaters “won’t play the film until the conclusion of federal authorities’ investigation into the three-week-old cyberattack on Sony Pictures and subsequent terrorist threats.”
NPR has not independently confirmed those reports.
Their decisions deal a blow to the studio, which reportedly spent $44 million to make the film.
The National Association of Theatre Owners said in a statement today “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.”
A hackers group called Guardians of Peace, in a statement on Tuesday, warned theaters against screening the film.
“The world will be full of fear,” the group said. “Remember the 11th of September 2001.”
The Department of Homeland Security, however, has said that it does not perceive a credible threat.
Sony’s cyber troubles began late last month when the group hacked the studio’s computer system and released some of its internal documents. This included personal details of its employees, email correspondence of top studio executives, films and scripts. Tuesday’s statement from the group was accompanied by more emails from the studio.
The theater that was to host the movie’s New York premiere canceled the screening late Tuesday. Sony had earlier given theaters permission to not show the film. The studio also withdrew Rogen and Franco from promotional appearances for the movie.