UPDATE: President Obama delivered his strongest remarks to date on the situation around The Interview. In his final press conference of the year Obama stated:
“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody’s going to intimidate them for releasing a satirical movie, imagine what’s going to happen when there’s a documentary they don’t like.”
“Even worse, if producers and distributors start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody who frankly probably needs their sensibilities offended.”
“That’s not who we are. That’s not who Americans are.”
“Again, I’m sympathetic to Sony … but I wish they had spoken to me first.”
“We’ll engage with not just the film industry but the news industry, the private sector.”
“All of us need to anticipate that occasionally there are going to be breaches like this … but we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior anymore than we would stop going to a football game because there might be a terrorist attack.”
“Any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that someone might try to call home.”
“I love Seth and I love James.”
“I think it says something about North Korea,” Obama says, that it would “mount an all-out attack over a satirical film … starring Seth Rogen.”
“That gives you a sense of the regime we’re talking about here.”
“We will respond, we will respond proportionally, and in a place and time that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at this press conference.
“More broadly though this shows we need to cooperate [with international partners]. Right now it’s sort of the wild west. And part of the problem is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors … that’s part of what makes this issue so important.”
Update: A Sony spokesman has announced that “Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film,” including VOD or DVD.
Additionally, American intelligence officials are reporting that the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent attacks on Sony Pictures.
Sometimes the bad guys get exactly what they want.
Today, Sony Pictures officially cancelled its release plans for the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy The Interview, which was scheduled to release next week on December 25. The film follows two bumbling members of a television news program who are recruited to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea has publicly condemned the film and some believe that they had a hand in the recent hacking attack by Guardians For Peace that targeted Sony. North Korea, however, has publicly denied any involvement in the cyberattacks.
The hackers, who stole everything from internal documents to private e-mail correspondences to the social security numbers of employees, released another parcel of stolen data on Tuesday along with a message threatening violence against any theater that showed The Interview and those who attended screenings of the film.
The message reads as follows:
“The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”
In the wake of that threatening message, the National Association of Theatre Owners said its members must each decide individually whether or not they would proceed with plans to release the film, and that Sony must respect their wishes. What followed was a string of theater chains like AMC, Regal, ArcLight, and many others announcing that they would not screen the film at all.
A Homeland Security official said the department was investigating the threat, but “as yet had found no clear indication of an active plot against theaters.”
Today, though, Sony officially pulled the plug on its plans to release the comedy on Christmas day.
Here is Sony’s official 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.”
While it is understandable that they would want to mitigate any risk to their clientele, it is deeply disheartening to see so many people give in to the demands of these craven, morally bankrupt cowards making threats. As many have already said online, this is a dangerous precedent to set for the film industry on the way in which they respond to threats.
The decision will likely result in a significant financial loss for the studio, especially considering the amount of money they’ve already poured into marketing in addition to the film’s $42 million budget.
Perhaps the film will still see the light of day at a later date or through digital channels, which would be a potentially smart avenue for them to pursue as it would mitigate the risk to theater owners, but for now it seems the terrorists have won.