One major movie theater chain has decided not to show Sony’s “The Interview,” and other theater owners may follow on Wednesday.
The decision follows a strange warning from anonymous hackers that people should avoid going to theaters where “The Interview” is playing.
The comedic film is still scheduled to come out on Christmas Day. Sony does not plan to pull the film altogether, but the studio has indicated it won’t object if theaters decide not to show the film, according to a person close to the situation.
“The Interview” has become controversial because its plot involves the attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Sony Pictures has been devastated by a cyberattack that appears motivated by anger over the film.
So now theater owners have to decide whether to reject the online threats and show the film — or succumb to the pressure.
One chain, Carmike Cinemas, has opted not to show it, according to another person close to the situation. Carmike has 278 theaters in 41 states.
Carmike did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday morning.
One of the people close to the situation predicted that at least some other theater owners will also decide to scrap their showings of the film.
“The possibility that people will avoid theaters altogether is the problem,” the person said. In other words, it’s not just “The Interview” that could hurt, it’s other Christmas releases like “Unbroken” and “Into The Woods.”
The people insisted on anonymity because Sony has not commented publicly.
Furthermore, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “exhibitors are wary of becoming liable if they show the movie and any violence occurs.”
To many observers, however, that sounds like a far-fetched scenario.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on CNN’s “New Day” that “this is essentially a heckler’s veto” of the film.
While Sony and U.S. government officials have not explicitly accused North Korea of being behind the hacking attacks, he said this seems to be “a foreign power engaging in a cyber-attack against a private actor, a private company, in order to squelch freedom of expression.”