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The decision followed new threats from hackers issued Tuesday. During discussions with theater owners during the course of the day, Sony Pictures told exhibitors who had booked The Interview that it planned to move forward with the movie’s release, but that they were free to decide not to show the film, and that the studio would support them in whatever decision they made.
Carmike’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ga. It operates 278 theaters and 2,917 screens in 41 states.
The situation throughout the day was very fluid: Neither the National Association of Theatre Owners nor the individual national theaters chains have yet publicly spoken about the situation. But according to some insiders, exhibitors are wary of becoming liable if they show the movie and any violence occurs.
The discussions have also involved requests from theater owners that Sony provide heavy security if they do go ahead and play the film. At the same time, some exhibitors felt that Sony was throwing the decision about whether or not to show the movie into their laps when the studio itself should be making that call. However, Sony insisted it is not abandoning plans to release the movie, although it remains to be seen how wide a theatrical release the film will now have. Sony representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, has been scheduled to open in wide release on Christmas Day, when it will bow against such other movies as Universal’s Unbroken and Disney’s Into the Woods.
The latest anonymous email from the hackers, issued Tuesday, appeared to threaten violence against public screenings of the movie. Citing 9/11, the hackers issued a warning and said, “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.” While the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it has found no evidence of an active plot against movie theaters in the U.S., the threat has raised concerns among exhibitors and other studios.
The situation is also raising concerns among the studios that the threat of violence could keep some moviegoers away from the multiplex over the lucrative holiday moviegoing period. Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck said, “We take those threats very seriously, and we will take extra precautions during the holidays and at theaters.”
“This is bad for everyone. This will stop people from going to theaters, and that affects all of us,” said one source at a rival studio. Another producer suggested that, given the latest developments, Sony should pull The Interview, saying, “If somebody called a bomb threat for a concert, and it was credible, you’d have to cancel or postpone the concert.”
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