[UPDATE: Sony has now outright canceled the December 2014 release for The Interview.]
A month ago, if you had told most anyone that everyone would be talking about The Interview - a raunchy comedy (where Seth Rogen and James Franco are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jon-Un) that had been relatively low on the public's radar for a while - they might well have laughed in your face. But, one unforeseen Sony hacking later and here we are, with major theater chains dropping or delaying the film due to a terrorist threat made against any theater that shows it.
Yesterday, Sony gave permission to theater owners to cancel screenings for The Interview when it opens (?) next week on Christmas Day; shortly thereafter a handful of minor theater chains did just that. Now, however, several more have followed suit, including several "Top 5" theater chains; that includes, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, and Regal Cinemas.
It's an unprecedented event and one that already has people online buzzing, with the general opinion seemingly quite against the move rather than being in support of the news. Variety is reporting that, despite the Department of Homeland Security's recent statement that no evidence has been found of an active terrorist plot that involves attaching screenings for The Interview, the list of theater chains that've either dropped or indefinitely delayed the film's premiere continues to grow (and rapidly).
Here is a statement on the matter, from exhibition industry analyst Eric Wold, where he cites theater chain owners' concerns about liability being the primary motivation for this turn of events.
"It's much less of a big deal to pull the film than it is to risk something happening. It makes no sense for a theater to choose to show this movie."
The list of theater chains that are passing on The Interview include the aforementioned three plus Cineplex, along with the already-announced Carmike and Bow Tie Cinemas. New additions include a number of single-state-based or smaller multi-state-based chains such as Cineplex, Southern Theatres, B&B Theatres, ArcLight Cinemas, and MJR Digital Cinemas - with even more expected to follow their lead before this week draws to a close (if not by the end of today).
UPDATE: Sony has now canceled the planned December 25th, 2014 theatrical release for The Interview. Here is the official statement, issued by the studio:
“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.”
A separate report from Variety reveals that Sony is considering a premium video on demand release for The Interview, to help recoup the film's $42 million production budget (which does not encompass the additional costs of marketing). Unsurprisingly, though, a concrete plans has not yet (reportedly) been agreed upon; and seeing as Sony is in a bad situation that could only get worse (depending on what else was stolen by the hackers), the studio's no doubt focused on trying to get its head above the water right now.
Meanwhile, The Interview - co-written/directed by Rogen with longtime collaborator, Evan Goldberg (This Is the End) - has been earning mediocre reviews ahead of its release (?), with sites like The Wrap arguing it's "a messy and meandering movie that [never] quite lands as a satire of politics or the media or anything else." Right now, it seems safe to say the controversy around The Interview will long outlive memories of the actual film.
We'll keep you up to speed on the situation with The Interview as more information becomes available.