Theaters Face Criticism for Dropping Film Due to Terrorist Threats

Theaters Face Criticism for Dropping Film Due to Terrorist Threats

Sony canceled the release of “The Interview,” after theaters dropped the film. Celebrities call the theaters cowardly and “un-American.”

Theaters Face Criticism for Dropping Film Due to Terrorist Threats

With multiple theater chains announcing they will not show the film “The Interview” in response to an online threat, Sony Pictures Entertainment today canceled the movie’s planned Christmas Day release.

“We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers,” according to a company statement.

“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers and our business,” according to the company. “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 studio’s announcement came as major theater chains decided not to show the film following a threat posted online Tuesday by a group claiming responsibility for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures — the “Guardians of Peace.”

Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas announced Tuesday it would not show the film, and East Coast theater chain Bow Tie Cinemas posted a message on its website saying it also would not show it.

The entertainment trade publications The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap reported that AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Cineplex theaters had all also decided not to show the film.

“The Interview,” a dark comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, focuses on an assassination attempt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The film has been the center of speculation about motives behind the sweeping cyberattack on Sony. North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack.

In its online threat, the Guardians of Peace wrote, “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. Remember the 11th of September 2001.”

The threat went on to warn potential moviegoers to “keep yourself distant from the places at that time. If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.”

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that “extra precautions” will be taken at theaters showing the movie — which is scheduled for release on Christmas.

“We take those threats very seriously and we will take extra precautions during the holidays and at theaters,” Beck said. “We’re very aware of the controversy surrounding Sony studios so we’ll take that into account. I won’t get into the details of all of that, but suffice it to say we’re aware of it and we’ll take appropriate action.”

Writer-director Judd Apatow, who was not involved in the making of “The Interview,” took to Twitter to blast the decision by theater chains to drop the film.

“Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” he asked. “What if an anonymous person got offended by something an executive at Coke said. Will we all have to stop drinking Coke? We also don’t know that it isn’t a disgruntled employee or a hacker. Do we think North Korea has troops on the ground in the U.S.? Ridiculous.

“This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before,” he wrote. “Legally or illegally all will see it.”

Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel responded to Apatow on Twitter, saying he agrees with his sentiments “wholeheartedly.”

“An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent,” Kimmel wrote.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS: IS IT COWARDICE OR PRUDENT TO CANCEL THE FILM SHOWINGS?

I don’t think this falls under the category of censorship, more under risk versus profit. I think theater owners are pretty gusty to pull it. They are the real front line here. Threats have to be taken seriously when you are the owner of an establishment were large groups of people gather. It is good to see that safety trumps profit. This movie has not been censored and will not be. This is luckily art and entertainment and there are other venues to have your ART seen. As Apatow stated, “now everyone will see it.” If it could go to DVD immediately I think everyone in America would buy it as an act of patriotism. I know I would and I was not even going to see the movie. I would even pay full price, something I never do. The movie gets seen, makes a profit and a huge, possibly historic statement, and no one is harmed in the showing of the film. That is the American way; to not put citizens in harms way if it can be avoided and protect freedom of speech. The movie is and will be distributed through any of the other multitude of ways available including theaters and its message will be heard. I think an equal and fair path where all are served is being followed.

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