Sony Pictures Entertainment has canceled its Christmas Day roll-out of the James Franco-Seth Rogen film The Interview after hacker threats of a 9/11-style terror attack spooked theater chains into dropping the film.
Wrote Sony in a statement:
"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."
The hacker group Guardians of Peace, which has been on a damaging data release campaign against the studio after a deep security breach in November, wrote earlier this week that,
"We will clearly show it [our Christmas gift] 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 world will be full of fear...Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY."
Many are speculating that a North Korean group is behind the hack and the threats because the comedic film features the assassination of Kim Jong Un. Franco and Rogen canceled all appearances for the movie following the threats.
UPDATE: U.S. officials say they have connected the Sony hackers to North Korea, NBC News reports.
The officials say the hacking attack originated outside North Korea, but they believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Koreans.
"We have found linkage to the North Korean government," according to a U.S. government source.
The officials offered no further details.