Theater chain drops Sony’s ‘The Interview’


Sony hackers warn: Remember 9/11 

One major movie theater chain has decided not to show Sony’s “The Interview,” and other theater owners may follow on Wednesday.

The decision follows a strange warning from anonymous hackers that people should avoid going to theaters where “The Interview” is playing.

The comedic film is still scheduled to come out on Christmas Day. Sony (SNE) does not plan to pull the film altogether, but the studio has indicated it won’t object if theaters decide not to show the film, according to a person close to the situation.

The film’s Los Angeles premiere went off without a hitch last week, but the New York premiere planned for Thursday was called off after the new threat on Tuesday.

“The Interview” has become controversial because its plot involves the attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Sony Pictures has been devastated by a cyberattack that appears motivated by anger over the film.

Related: Sony stock down 10% in past week

So now theater owners have to decide whether to reject the online threats and show the film — or succumb to the pressure.

One chain, Carmike Cinemas (CKEC), has opted not to show it, according to another person close to the situation. Carmike has 278 theaters in 41 states.

Carmike did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday morning.

One of the people close to the situation predicted that at least some other theater owners will also decide to scrap their showings of the film. Other major operators include AMC (AMC), Regal (RGC) and Cinemark (CNK).

“The possibility that people will avoid theaters altogether is the problem,” the person said. In other words, it’s not just “The Interview” that could be hurt, it’s other Christmas releases like Disney’s (DIS) “Into The Woods” and Universal’s “Unbroken.”

The people insisted on anonymity because Sony has not commented publicly.

Furthermore, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “exhibitors are wary of becoming liable if they show the movie and any violence occurs.”

To many observers, however, that sounds like a far-fetched scenario.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on CNN’s “New Day” that “this is essentially a heckler’s veto” of the film.

While Sony and U.S. government officials have not explicitly accused North Korea of being behind the hacking attacks, he said this seems to be “a foreign power engaging in a cyber-attack against a private actor, a private company, in order to squelch freedom of expression.”

The FBI is investigating the hack, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that “there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.”

CNN’s Pamela Brown and Lorenza Brascia contributed reporting.

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