The latest comedy film from Seth Rogan has been pulled from theaters after terrorist threats came through warning that attacks would be made on any theaters that showed it.
The movie, entitled "The Interview," was originally planned for an October release, but was bumped to December 25 by Sony Pictures. But after further terrorist threats against anyone who watches the film, the premiere release and promotional events were officially cancelled today and Sony announced that the movie will not be released.
The plot of the film follows a journalist and his producer (James Franco and Seth Rogan) who are scheduled to interview North Korean leader Kim Jung-un, but are then instructed by the CIA to assassinate him instead. When the North Korean government got word of this plot, officials criticized the premise, stating that it "shows the desperation of the US government and American society."
On June 25, the Korean Central News Agency stated that if the film was released, the United States would face "stern" and "merciless" retaliation. "Making and releasing a film that portrays an attack on our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated," the state news agency said.
But the threat from North Korea came to a head last month when hackers broke into Sony's computers and allegedly spread the movie around. On December 16, Sony advised theaters that they didn't need to show the film if fear over retaliation was too great, but then on December 17, Sony made the final decision to not release the movie at all.
"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," a Sony statement read.
"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," the statement continued. "We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
Perhaps the most menacing threat to come in regarding the $42 million film was posted on Tuesday through an online message board. "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.)"
Although many believe that the entire cyber attack on Sony was originally linked to finding the film before release, North Korea denies any connection with the hack. The hacker group's message continued with further threats. "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. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear."
It's unclear whether Sony plans to release the film after the attention has died down, but the nation's largest movie theaters, including Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Carmike, and Southern Theaters are not interested in taking that risk.