LOS ANGELES – The nation’s leading theater chains are pulling the plug on screening The Interview.
Regal, AMC and Cinemark – the three largest chains in the U.S. – have decided not to screen The Interview when it debuts on Christmas Day in the wake of threats made by Sony hackers, said people familiar with the decision. The chains have asked Sony to postpone the release date of the controversial film.
The decision represents a major blow to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has been under siege by a hack attack that became public Nov. 24.
A representative of Sony Pictures Entertainment declined to comment.
Late Tuesday, Carmike Cinemas, the fourth-largest theater chain, with 2,917 screens in 41 states, became the first major exhibitor to scrap plans to screen The Interview.
New York-based Bow Tie Cinemas also said Wednesday it was scrapping plans to screen the Sony comedy at its 55 movie theaters, which have roughly 350 screens. Bow Tie is one of the oldest theater chains in the country with theaters in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Colorado.
“We at Bow Tie Cinemas are saddened and angered by recent threats of terrorism in connection with the movie, The Interview,” the theater chain said in a statement.
“It is our mission to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees. 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 Dec. 25, 2014, as originally planned. We hope that those responsible for this act are swiftly identified and brought to justice.”
Landmark Theatres said Thursday’s New York premiere of The Interview at Sunshine Cinema has been canceled.
At an emergency meeting of the National Association of Theatre Owners, Sony executives told owners that they could drop the film from their holiday schedules without breaching their contractual agreements or jeopardizing future bookings of Sony films.
The owners group said in a statement Wednesday that it is “working closely with the appropriate security and law enforcement agencies.”
“We are encouraged that the authorities have made progress in their investigation and we look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended,” the association said. “Until that happens, 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.”
Federal officials are taking seriously the possibility that, in retaliation for The Interview, North Korea could be behind the massive cyber attack at Sony, which became public Nov. 24.
The Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-directed film is about an attempt to kill North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un. In June, North Korea called on the U.S. government to block the film’s release or face a “decisive and merciless countermeasure.”
“We will clearly show it (our Christmas gift) 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,” the hackers wrote on Tuesday.