Major Theater Chains Pulling 'The Interview' After Hackers' Threats
by Ethan Anderton
December 17, 2014
It's been a tough few weeks for Sony Pictures. A group calling themselves Guardians of Peace hacked into the studio's network and stole terabytes of personal and private business documents, e-mails and more. The hack was seemingly initiated by North Korea in an effort to stop the release of Seth Rogen and James Franco's comedy The Interview, in which a talk show host and his producer try to assassinate the country's leader Kim Jong-un. They've been slowly leaking them with revelations of projects in development, some dastardly gossip garbage and more. But now they've taken things to another level with a threat of violence against any theaters who show the film, opening on Christmas Day, in the US. Read on!
Here's the message containing the threat in questions:
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.
It's clear that this hacker group is running their threats through some kind of translation application, which makes their message simultaneously sound more menacing and hilarious. But they're starting to make real impact with regards to the marketing and release of the film. Seth Rogen and James Franco had already canceled all their publicity appearances on late night talks shows and whatnot after the threat was issued yesterday, and now The New York Times reports that Sony Pictures has told theaters chains that they can decline to book The Interview if they feel legitimately worried about these threats.
The Georgia-based Carmike theater chain has already decided not to show The Interview on any of their screens when it opens on Christmas Day, and the film's New York premiere, which was set for tomorrow at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, has since been canceled. However, it's amusing to note that despite the threat against the premiere of the film, the world premiere of the comedy already went off without a hitch on December 11th. That fact combined with Homeland Security declaring that there's no credible threat against the country from these hackers seems to call bullshit on these so-called threats.
Honestly, this is a very fine line to walk, both for the movie studio and as audience members. On one hand, you don't want to let fear guide your decision to go to the movies. That's exactly what monsters like this want. Do the hackers really think they'll stop the movie from seeing the light of day? Are they going to kill anyone who comes into contact with this film? Not likely. But on the other hand, if even one theater ends up being attacked in this mess, then that's truly a tragedy, and neither the studio nor those potentially involved in some kind of incident would never live it down.
As an alternative to this issue for Sony and those who want to see the movie but not feel threatened, The Verge has made a strong case to release the film online. This way it's available to people within the safety of their homes, and Sony can, "Take the threat of attacking theaters and diffuse it with the truth that the hackers don’t seem to understand: we live in a world where every living room, every computer, and every phone is a theater. And whether it’s leaked government documents or a goofy comedy from the Neighbors guy, nothing stays hidden for long."
They even make the case that releasing the film on iTunes or other VOD outlets could serve as a distribution experiment. The article says, "For years studios, theaters, and VOD services have butted heads over narrowing theatrical windows and release strategies: theaters want to have movies longer, while studios want to start collecting that VOD money as soon as possible. With many theaters already dropping out, why not take the most dangerous studio movie in the world and let audiences decide what they prefer?" That's not a bad idea at all, but it might be hard to negotiate that kind of release on short notice, and would likely just piss off the theaters who decide to still show the movie.
At the end of the day, we shouldn't let our lives be threatened by these people, especially when they are clearly full of empty threats and can only seem to cause damage from behind a computer screen. Where were these assholes when Team America: World Police came out? Is Kim Jong-un just that much bigger of a dickhead than Kim Jong-il? While I'll have stuff to do with my family on Christmas Day, you can bet your ass that I'll be heading to theaters to see The Interview, and I hope that the rest of the country decides to go out of their way to see it (unless raunchy comedy just isn't their thing). Anyway, if any other theater chains decide to pull The Interview from their screens, we'll be sure to let you know. Thoughts?
UPDATE: Looks like we won't be able to see The Interview on Christmas after all as The Wrap reports major theater chains Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex, Southern Theatres, B&B Theatres, ArcLight Cinemas, MJR Digital Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas have all decided to pull the film from its Christmas Day release.
UPDATE #2: Variety is reporting that the studio is looking at potentially giving the film a premium VOD release to help recoup some of the film’s $42 million budget, not to mention the money spent on marketing (though they're pulling the rest of the TV ads since people won't really have much access to the film now).