The biggest movie theater chains in the United States have cancelled all current plans to show The Interview following threats to attack screenings of the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The three largest chains in the US — AMC, Regal, and Cinemark — are reported to have called off screenings for the movie, as has Cineplex, the largest chain in Canada. While Sony has not officially cancelled release of The Interview, its availability only at small theater chains means that it will be unwatchable for many potential viewers.
Sony chose not to delay the film
These cancellations are likely to account for a significant monetary loss for Sony, which has been gearing up to release the film on Christmas. Sony could always choose to release the film online and on-demand, which has become an increasingly popular practice for helping smaller films gain buzz, but that would hardly bring in the type of money it expected to make on a widely released Christmas-day comedy. In light of the cancellations, Deadline reports that Sony is also ending all TV advertising for the film.
Counting just AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Carmike — which cancelled plans to screen the film yesterday — Sony can rule out having The Interview shown on nearly half of movie screens in the US. According to The Wall Street Journal, there are around 40,000 screens in total, and those four chains account for 18,000 alone. Those theaters have reportedly decided that they will not screen the film at least until a federal investigation into the threats and cyberattack is closed.
Theater chains asked Sony to delay the film's release, but it chose not to, the Journal reports. Instead, Sony said that it would not penalize theaters for choosing not to screen the film, despite prior commitments to do so. The decision for the biggest chains to not show The Interview was reportedly made on a conference call this morning with their trade group, the National Association of Theatre Owners.
"The ability of our guests to enjoy the entertainment they choose in safety and comfort is and will continue to be a priority for theater owners," NATO says in a statement. The group also said that "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."
Regal and Cineplex suggest they could still play The Interview at a later date
Regal and Cineplex have released statements as well, with both chains suggesting that they could still screen The Interview in the future. "Due to the wavering support of the film The Interview by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats, Regal Entertainment Group has decided to delay the opening of the film in our theaters," Regal says, according to Deadline.
"After careful consideration of this unprecedented and complex situation, Cineplex Entertainment will postpone presentation of the Sony Pictures movie, The Interview," Cineplex executive Pat Marshall says in a statement. "Cineplex takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression, but we want to reassure our guests and staff that their safety and security is our number one priority. We look forward to a time when this situation is resolved and those responsible are apprehended."
This threat has put theater owners and Sony in a tough spot. While Homeland Security says that it has no evidence that this is a legitimate threat, the threat was made by the hackers who broke into Sony, showing that they are at least a technologically capable crew. Choosing as a group to not show the film seemingly ensures safety for those theaters' patrons, while also making sure those theaters don't miss out on a significant share of profits.
The threats were made yesterday by the Sony hacking group, which calls itself "Guardians of Peace." The group referenced 9/11 and said that they "recommend you to keep yourself distant" from movie theaters screening the film. The film's stars, James Franco and Seth Rogen, subsequently cancelled press appearances while smaller theater chains began to pull out of screenings.
The Sony hack began in late November when its computer systems were brought down worldwide. Over the past week, information stolen from its systems — such as executives' emails and employees' social security numbers — have been published online, including a release yesterday that came along with the threat on theaters. North Korea is widely suspected to be involved with the hack, though it has denied involvement. The Interview focuses on the assassination of its leader, Kim Jong-un, and ends with his graphic death. That choice has seemingly upset the country's government.