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Sony cancels The Interview release after theaters pull out

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Sony is canceling The Interview's planned theatrical release in response to all major US theater chains deciding not to show the film after attacks were threatened. "In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release," Sony says in a statement, reprinted by Variety. "We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers."

"We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression."

The hackers who stole data from Sony threatened attacks on screenings of The Interview yesterday afternoon. In the time since, around half of all movie screens in the US declined to show the film.

Sony's statement continues: "Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

The decision is likely to account for a significant financial loss for Sony, which was in line to see a nice return on its Christmas-day comedy. Many are already criticizing the move by theater owners, worrying that this will set a precedent for how the film industry responds to threats. The theater owners stated that they felt this was a necessary decision to ensure their patrons' safety and comfort — and, in effect, they've also basically forced Sony's hand. That's a win for theaters, which may get to show this film at a later date, but it's not great news for Sony after all of the promotion it's done ahead of the 25th.

The film, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, has raised some controversy because of its subject matter: an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is graphically killed at the end. North Korea is widely suspected to be behind the cyberattack on Sony, though it has denied any involvement.

While not releasing the film at all would be a major financial hit, that does appear to be Sony's strategy, with Deadline reporting that a studio spokesperson has clarified that the studio "has no further release plans for the film." That means no DVD, Blu-ray, or online release — even though putting The Interview online is arguably the best strategy for the studio at this point.

Update, 7.34PM ET: Added comment from Sony spokesperson about additional release plans.