So much for standing up to terrorists.
Bowing to the demands of hackers and handing them a major victory, Sony said Wednesday that it is pulling “The Interview” from movie theaters.
The movie, which was due to open on December 25, follows two American showbiz reporters offered the chance to interview Kim Jong Un. Before they leave, they are co-opted by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader.
Sony’s decision came a day after hackers released a database of emails belonging to Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment and with it a message threatening harm if the movie screening went ahead.
“We will clearly show it 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 message read in part.
“Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.),” it said.
The message certainly took the threats to a new level, but soon after that message was posted, the Department of Homeland Security told reporters that it didn’t believe the threat to be credible. Despite that, Sony followed by telling movie theater operators that it would understand if they declined to show the movie.
On Wednesday, four major movie chains said they wouldn’t be screening the movie and Sony followed by saying it would postpone the launch.
What might have persuaded the movie theater operators? According to Reuters, the FBI warned them on Tuesday that they might be the target of cyberattacks should they show the movie. With Sony’s corporate secrets laid bare by the hackers, it’s easy to see why other companies would want to avoid the same fate.
“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,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
But Sony didn’t show as much support for free expression later in the day, when it said it has no plans to release the movie at all — not in theaters, not on DVD or via on-demand platforms.
Another apparent casualty of the move: a thriller set in North Korean starring Steve Carrell and in development by New Regency. That studio has scrapped the project, reported Deadline.
Wednesday passed without a message from the hackers.
North Korean state media has yet to respond. It’s only comment so far, published on December 7, was a denial of involvement but admission that it’s not altogether sad the movie company was hacked.