Theater Owners Working Closely With Law Enforcement to Ensure Moviegoers' Safety

Ed Araquel

NATO released a statement Wednesday: "Individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season"

The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) has released its first statement about Sony's film The Interview, since hackers leveled threats of violence against theaters showing the film.

“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," the organization said.

NATO emphasized that it is up to individual theaters to decide if they want to screen the film. On Tuesday, after the new threat was made by the hacker group calling themselves Guardians of Peace (GOP) was released, Sony told theater owners that it was up to them if they wanted to pull the film, and that Sony would support their decisions.

So far, the country's three biggest theater circuits — Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark USA — have not announced how they plan to handle the film. However, according to sources, behind the scenes they are pressuring Sony to drop its current plans for the film's release rather than force that decision onto the theaters themselves. 

NATO's note also referenced the ongoing investigation into the hacker group, noting that progress is being made been made:

"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," NATO said. "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.”

The statement from NATO comes as some theater chains — Carmike Cinemas, the country's fourth largest theater chaiin, Bow Tie Cinemas, the ninth-ranked chain, and L.A.-based ArcLight Cinemas — have already chosen to pull their screenings of the comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The New York premiere was also canceled.

The latest note from the hacker group, which has released tens of thousands of Sony's confidential emails and files over the past two weeks, mentioned the September 11 attacks, and seemed to imply that it would be dangerous to go to theaters screening the film: "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.)"

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