UPDATE: Sony Has Cancelled the December 25 Release of The Interview

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UPDATE #2: CNN is reporting that investigators have determined that hackers working for North Korea were behind the Sony attack. An announcement from the U.S. Justice Department could come as early as tomorrow.

UPDATE #1: Sony Pictures has now cancelled the December 25 release of The Interview. The studio released the following 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.

The original story follows:

The five largest theaters in North America announced today they will no longer show Sony Pictures’ The Interview when it is released on December 25 following a threat by hacker group, which has caused major problems for the studio for weeks now.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment will no longer show the film due to the hacker group, “Guardians of Peace,” saying, “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.).” According to The Wall Street Journal, there are about 40,000 screens in the U.S. and Regal, AMC, Cinemark and Carmike account for almost half of them. Cineplex is the largest Canadian chain. In addition, Arclight Cinemas, Classic Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas won’t show the film either.

“Due to the wavering support of the film ‘The Interview’ by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats, Regal Entertainment Group has decided to delay the opening of the film in our theatres,” Regal said in a statement.

Pat Marshall, Vice President, Communications and Investor Relations, Cineplex Entertainment, said: “After careful consideration of this unprecedented and complex situation, Cineplex Entertainment (“Cineplex”) will postpone presentation of the Sony Pictures movie, The Interview. Cineplex takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression, but we want to reassure our guests and staff that their safety and security is our number one priority. We look forward to a time when this situation is resolved and those responsible are apprehended.”

The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that there is not “credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.”

The National Association of Theater Owners, however, released the following statement earlier today: “The ability of our guests to enjoy the entertainment they choose in safety and comfort is and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. While we do not discuss security procedures or policies, NATO members are working closely with the appropriate security and law enforcement agencies. We are encouraged that the authorities have made progress in their investigation and we look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended. Until that happens, individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season experiencing the many other exciting films we have to offer.”

Sony Pictures has not made an official statement yet, but Variety is reporting that the studio is now weighing releasing the film on premium video-on-demand to help recoup some of the film’s $42 million budget as well as the tens of millions more in promotion and advertising expenses.

In the movie (read our review), Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show ‘Skylark Tonight.’ When they discover that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the most unlikely candidates, to ‘take out’ Kim Jong-un.

The hacking of Sony Pictures’ computer systems started in late November. A large amount of information was stolen by the “Guardians of Peace” and has been released on various file sharing sites. Though it has denied any involvement, North Korea is suspected to be involved with the hack.