Business & Economy

Sony hack: Sony pulls plug on 'The Interview,' Twitter erupts (updated)

Dave (James Franco) and Aaron (Seth Rogen) in Columbia Pictures'
Dave (James Franco) and Aaron (Seth Rogen) in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview."
Ed Araquel

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Poll: Should theaters pull the film? | Social media responses | Judd Apatow reacts on The Frame

Sony Pictures has officially scrapped its plans to release "The Interview" in theaters on Christmas Day following news that major theater chains would not show the film. The decision was the latest fallout from the Sony email hack as concerns grew over the safety of moviegoers attending screenings after threats from a hacker group Tuesday. Six theater chains — Regal Entertainment, AMC Theatres, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, Cineplex Entertainment and Bow Tie Cinemas — announced that they wouldn't screen "The Interview." Plans for a New York premiere were also cancelled amid the threats.


4:42 p.m. Sony says there are no future release plans for 'The Interview'

While there has been speculation that Sony could release "The Interview" via video-on-demand, Sony currently has no plans to, according to the company.

Sony Pictures Entertainment told KPCC Wednesday afternoon that it would not release “The Interview” in any form — which would include video-on-demand, home video or digital release — after announcing that it had cancelled its Christmas Day theatrical release.

Sony declined further comment on the fate of the movie, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco.

To date, the movie has screened mainly to audiences of journalists and other invited guests in previews.

Director Judd Apatow, who has frequently collaborated with "The Interview's" Seth Rogen, strongly criticized the decision by Sony to pull the film. He told KPCC, "I think we're in a dangerous situation when we give in to these types of threats, because it trains people to threaten us. So unless there's very credible information that there's the potential for real violence, then we have to be very careful about not presenting movies, because tomorrow someone else can just put in a call. Where does it end?"

Listen and read more in Apatow's full interview with KPCC's "The Frame."

KPCC staff

3:58 p.m. Orange County Rep. Ed Royce: 'It is very clear North Korea did this'

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, who represents northern Orange County, spoke with CNN about federal investigators reportedly linking North Korea to the Sony hack.

"It is very clear North Korea did this," Royce said, according to the Los Angeles Times' John Corrigan.

"Frankly, for the hermit kingdom to pull this off is regrettable," Royce said, according to CNN's Leinz Vales.

KPCC has not independently confirmed the report that Royce was responding to.

KPCC staff

2:11 p.m.: Sony pulls plug on 'The Interview'

Sony Pictures has officially scrapped its plans to release "The Interview" in theaters on Christmas Day following news that major theater chains would not show the film, which has been linked to a massive cyber attack against the studio.

Here's the full statement, obtained by KPCC:

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. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

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.

1:13 p.m.: Celebs rally to support seeing 'The Interview'

Several celebrities have taken to Twitter to voice their support for seeing Sony's "The Interview" despite threats of violence made by the group that took credit for a massive cyber attack on the studio.

Here's Filmmaker Judd Apatow:



Apatow expanded on those sentiments in a conversation with KPCC's The Frame: "Everything in our culture is not liked by somebody, and as soon as we say we're going to shut it down just because someone posts something on the Internet, we're changing the world in a big way." (Catch the full interview at 3:30 p.m. on The Frame.)

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel concurred:


Here's Adam McKay, co-founder of Funny or Die:


And actress Mindy Kaling:


According to Entertainment Weekly, some of the hosts of ABC's "The View" shared the sentiments, but not all:

Nicolle Wallace said, “We have a good history of not being bullied by thugs,” to which Rosie O’Donnell replied, “I just feel like it’s not worth it to me to see a movie that’s supposedly not all that funny. … It’s not like this is some Spielberg epic.” Wallace shot back: “I just think the point is if you want to see it don’t let some goon in North Korea change your plans.” (North Korea has denied being behind the hacker attacks but called the film “an act of war” last June.)

12:22 p.m. LAPD Chief Beck says pulling 'The Interview' plays into hackers' desires

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck expressed concerns about "The Interview" being pulled from theaters.

“I do think it does play into the desires of the people that did this, and I find that unfortunate," Beck tells KPCC.
“We are working on hypothesis that it is not a credible threat," Beck said. "However, we are concerned about it and we will plan to advise our officers to spend additional time in the theaters."

11:58 a.m. Nation's top 5 theater chains pull 'The Interview'

The nation's five largest theater chains have pulled "The Interview," Sony confirms to KPCC, including Regal Entertainment, AMC Theatres, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment. In addition, Bow Tie Cinemas previously announced that they wouldn't be showing the film.

"The Interview" was set to debut on Christmas and is still set for release on that date, but it remains unclear which theaters, if any, will screen the film. This comes after threats were made against theaters showing the film by the hacking group which has been releasing private data from Sony.

KPCC staff

11:05 a.m.: National Association of Theater Owners release statement

The National Association of Theater Owners—which represents theater owners in all 50 states—released a statement today about the release of Sony's "The Interview":

While we do not discuss security procedures or policies, NATO members are 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. 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.”

—KPCC staff

10:57 a.m.: Hacked Sony emails reveal Lionsgate interest in merger; second studio drops 'The Interview'

Bloomberg is reporting that the hacked Sony emails show that rival studio Lionsgate tried unsuccessfully to engage Sony in talks about a merger or acquisition:

Michael Burns, vice chairman of Lions Gate, wanted to “toss around ideas about a possible merger or acquisition,” Nicole Seligman, president of Sony Corp. of America, said in an Aug. 20 e-mail to Lynton that was among the latest Sony documents released by hackers.

Bow Tie Cinemas has pulled The Interview from its theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter, in response to threats from the hacker group Guardians of Peace. The decision comes as Carmike Cinemas cancelled showings in its more than 200 theaters.

Bow Tie Cinemas operates 55 locations across six states in the Northeast, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

—KPCC staff

6:53 a.m.: NY premiere of 'The Interview' canceled as threats fly

Threats of violence against movie theaters. The New York premiere of "The Interview" canceled. Leaks of thousands more private emails. Lawsuits by former employees that could cost tens of millions in damages.

The fallout from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack that began four weeks ago exploded Tuesday after the shadowy group calling themselves Guardians of Peace escalated their attack beyond corporate espionage and threatened moviegoers with violence reminiscent of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Department of Homeland Security said there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters," but noted it was still analyzing messages from the group, dubbed GOP. The warning did prompt law enforcement in New York and Los Angeles to address measures to ramp up security.

Those security fears spurred Sony to allow theater chains to cancel showings of the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy "The Interview," that has been a focus of the hackers' mission to bring down Sony.

A spokesperson for Landmark Sunshine cinemas said the New York premiere of "The Interview," scheduled for Thursday night, has been canceled. Carmike Cinemas, which operates 247 theaters across the country, was the first to cancel its planned showings of the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

GOP also released a trove of data files including 32,000 emails to and from Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton in what it called the beginning of a "Christmas gift."

And two former Sony film production workers filed lawsuits alleging the Culver City, Calif., company waited too long to notify nearly 50,000 employees that data such as Social Security numbers, salaries and medical records had been stolen.

The filing follows another lawsuit this week from two other former Sony employees accusing the studio of being negligent by not bolstering its defenses against hackers before the attack. It claims emails and other leaked information show thatSony's information-technology department and its top lawyer believed its security system was vulnerable to attack, but that company did not act on those warnings. 

Sony potentially faces tens of millions of dollars in damages from a class-action lawsuit, said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

In "The Interview," Rogen and Franco star as television journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Speculation about a North Korean link to the Sony hacking has centered on that country's angry denunciation of the film. Over the summer, North Korea warned that the film's release would be an "act of war that we will never tolerate." It said the U.S. will face "merciless" retaliation.

The film was slated to hit theaters nationwide on Christmas Day. It premiered in Los Angeles last week.

But on Tuesday, Rogen and Franco pulled out of all media appearances, canceling a BuzzFeed Q&A and Rogen's planned guest spot Thursday on "Late Night With Seth Meyers." A representative for Rogen said he had no comment. A spokeswoman for Franco didn't respond to queries Tuesday.

The FBI said it is aware of the GOP's threats and "continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate this matter." FBI director James Comey last week said that investigators are still trying to determine who is responsible for the hack.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his department takes the hackers' threats "very seriously" and will be taking extra precautions during the holidays at theaters. The National Association of Theatre Owners had no comment on the developing situation. Neither Sony nor representatives from individual theater chains, including Carmike, responded to requests for comment.

Since the hack surfaced late last month, everything from financial figures to salacious emails between top Sony executives has been dumped online.

The nearly 32,000 emails to and from Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Lynton leaked Tuesday include information about casting decisions and total costs for upcoming films, release schedules for Sony films through 2018 and corporate financial records, such as royalties from iTunes, Spotify and Pandora music services. They include information about new electronics devices such as DVD players and cellphones. They also include budget figures for the Motion Picture Association of America, of which Sony is a member, and at least one email about a senior Sony executive who left the company. The emails also include banal messages about public appearances, tennis matches, home repairs, dinner invitations and business introductions.

In their warning Tuesday, the hackers suggested Sony employees make contact via several disposable email addresses ending in Frenchman Frederic Leroy, who started up the yopmail site in 2004, was surprised to learn the Sony hackers were using yopmail addresses. He said there was no way he could identify the users.

—Associated Press reporter Bernard Condon. AP writers Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., Lindsey Bahr in Los Angeles, Jake Coyle and Tom Hays in New York and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed.

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