NEW YORK (AP) – The top theater chains in North America have dropped “The Interview” after hackers threatened terrorist attacks at theaters showing the comedy, effectively squashing the film’s Dec. 25 release.
Regal Cinemas, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark have each pulled the movie. The chains also were joined in postponing any screenings of “The Interview” by ArcLight Cinemas, Cineplex Entertainment and Carmike Cinemas, which pulled the film Tuesday.
Regal said in a statement that it was delaying “The Interview” “due to wavering support of the film … by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats.”
Cineplex Entertainment, Canada’s largest theater circuit, said safety was the first concern. “We look forward to a time when this situation is resolved and those responsible are apprehended,” said Cineplex spokesman Pat Marshall.
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After hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace on Tuesday referenced the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th in an ominous warning of violence for “Interview” moviegoers, Sony offered theaters the option of bowing out.
The seriousness of the threat is unclear. The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday there was “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters,” but noted it was still analyzing messages from the group. The warning did prompt law enforcement in New York and Los Angeles to address measures to ramp up security.
The FBI is investigating the identity of the hackers, but suspicion has centered on North Korea, which has issued warnings over “The Interview.” The comedy depicts a TV host (James Franco) and producer (Seth Rogen) tasked by the CIA to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jung-un (played by Randall Park). Sony, which produced the film, has been shaken by a hacking attack by the group.
The National Association of Theatre Owners also weighed in Wednesday: “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,” the group said in a statement.
The multiplexes that have canceled “The Interview” amount to more than 20,000 screens in North America, most of the theaters in North America. Smaller independent theaters could potentially still show the film.
Sony did not immediately comment Wednesday on the theaters pulling “The Interview.” The fate of the film is now very much in question. Sony could potentially release the film at a later date in theaters, try an unprecedented on-demand release or simply hold on to it.
Some in Hollywood lashed out Wednesday at the theater operators, calling their decision a capitulation to terrorists.
“It is a disgrace that these theaters are not showing ‘The Interview,’ ” said Judd Apatow, Rogen’s friend and collaborator. “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?”
Film Writer Lindsey Bahr in Los Angeles and Robert Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.