Hackers Have Scared Movie Theaters into Not Showing 'The Interview'

What was supposed to be a simple James Franco–Seth Rogen comedy film has become the target of terroristic threats, and several theater chains are refusing to show it.

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Dec 17 2014, 9:39pm

Image via Sony Pictures

The Interview was—spoiler—supposed to be a comedy about a pair of bumbling journalists (Seth Rogen and VICE contributor James Franco) who get instructed by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Now, thanks to the Sony hackers, it's taken a turn for the meta, and will ultimately be remembered as a film that resulted in a terrorist threat against the United States.

Since November 14, an unknown person or persons have been leaking Sony's films, private emails, and executive salaries. There are rumors* that the North Korean government itself is behind the threat, although officials there have denied them. But the story kicked up a notch yesterday, when the hackers threatened moviegoers who might want to go see the film. Calling themselves "Guardians of Peace," they issued this warning on the anonymous messageboard Pastebin:

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places "The Interview" be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.

As a result of this over-the-top threat, the world premiere of the film, in LA, was scaled back to the point where reporters weren't even allowed interviews (kind of ironic, right?). New York's premiere was cancelled entirely. Now, rather than risk the unspecified consequences, both Regal and AMC have opted not to show the film. Several smaller cinema chains have followed suit. One, Bow Tie Cinemas, released a statement about the decision today.

"Given that the source and credibility of these threats is unknown at the time of this announcement, we have decided after careful consideration not to open The Interview on December 25, 2014 as originally planned," it read. "We hope that those responsible for this act are swiftly identified and brought to justice.

Of course, making a film prohibitively difficult to see is just going to make people want see it more—it's why people still remember Piss Christ. (This phenomenon is basically the plot of Infinite Jest.) Who knows? Maybe this is a huge publicity stunt by the production company. Sony could probably release this movie on DVD tomorrow and make a trillion dollars.

Maybe that's why not all theaters are cowed by the threats. "If they play it, we'll show it," Tom Stephenson, the CEO of Look Cinemas, told Variety. "Sony has a right to make the movie, we have a right to play it and censorship in general is a bad thing."

UPDATE: According to CNN, Sony just decided to cancel the movie's planned release altogether:

...and the AP is saying the same thing. Look for The Interview on DVD or Netflix, I guess.

*The New York Times, citing unnamed US intelligence officials, is reporting that North Korea was, in fact, behind the hacking of Sony that preceded the threats made to movie theaters.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

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