2ND UPDATE, 3:49 PM: Carmike yesterday became the first theater chain to announce that it was scrapping plans to screen The Interview. Now the Georgia-based exhibitor has released a statement: “The top priority for Carmike Cinemas is to ensure that our valued guests may enjoy the entertainment of their choosing in a safe and comfortable environment. Carmike must take threats against movie theatres very seriously and the recent unprecedented cyber-attacks against Sony Pictures are no exception. Therefore, in an abundance of caution, Carmike will delay the exhibition of The Interview. There are many additional excellent movie titles to choose from this holiday season, and we look forward to welcoming our patrons.”
UPDATED, 1:34 PM: AMC and Cineplex has made their pulling of The Interview official. Said AMC: “As friends and families make plans for the upcoming holidays, AMC has received many questions about which movies we are playing in the weeks ahead. The recent cancellation of The Interview‘s premiere and publicity appearances by its leading talent, and the overall confusion and uncertainty that has been created in the marketplace, brings into serious doubt whether the movie will open at all next week. At this time, to best enable AMC guests to plan their holiday movie-going with certainty and confidence, AMC is programming its theatres without The Interview.” From Cineplex: “Cineplex takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression, but we want to reassure our guests and staff that their security is our number one priority.”
WRITETHRU WITH UPDATES: Ultimately, The Interview didn’t go well, and Sony’s controversial film appears dead. Regal and Cinemark said today that they will not screen the Seth Rogen-directed comedy, and other major exhibition chains including AMC and Cineplex are expected to follow suit. The news comes a day after a hacker threat against venues that show the pic starring Rogen and James Franco. Regal said in a statement, “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.” Cinemark simply said, “We have determined that we will not exhibit this film at this time.”
In the wake of the threat, Sony yesterday gave theater owners the option to back away from the film, which is set to open Christmas Day. And this afternoon, it pulled all TV advertising for The Interview. Earlier today the studios’ trade group, the National Association of Theatre Owners, said that “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.” NATO also said several theaters around the country have scrapped press screenings for thje film. Worth noting: Regal and NATO both used the word “delay” rather than “cancel” in their statements today. It’s unclear whether that’s mere semantics or a hint about a wait-and-see attitude.
Regal’s move follows announcements by smaller regional chains Bow Tie Cinemas and Carmike Cinemas that they also are pulling the movie, which revolves around a cockeyed plot to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. “It is our mission to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees,” Bow Tie said this morning, adding that it is “saddened and angered by recent threats of terrorism in connection with the movie.” The chain’s comes despite the fact that Department of Homeland Security officials have been downplaying any real threat. Employees at multiple ArcLight Cinema locations in LA told Deadline Tuesday the movie had been pulled from its theaters, although a corporate rep said a decision had not yet been made.
Sony isn’t yet cancelling the Christmas release of The Interview, but the New York premiere of the film, which had been set for Thursday, also has been cancelled.
The hackers’ threat was issued along with a new data dump containing emails stolen from Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, specifically referenced The Interview for the first time since Sony’s crisis began on November 24.
Tuesday’s message threatened theaters showing The Interview and invoked 9/11, escalating safety concerns and potential legal liability to theater owners who run the film as planned:
“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. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY.”
The possibility of Sony removing The Interview from theaters altogether and instead releasing it on VOD is not yet a part of major conversations, an insider tells Deadline. Sony had no comment.
Meanwhile, the film faces an uncertainly future internationally. Sony already has said it will not release The Interview in Asia, save for Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, where the comedy is set to open February 6, a local press officer would only issue a terse “no comment” when asked if the company had any plans to delay, postpone, reschedule or cancel the intended release there.
A rep at Sony’s global headquarters in Tokyo declined to comment when asked by Deadline if the ongoing hacking crisis at Sony Pictures had made the corporate parent re-assess either its commitment to the film business or its own security operations given the catastrophic breach of Sony Pictures’ network.
Deadline’s David Lieberman contributed to this report.