The New York premiere of North Korea-themed comedy The Interview has been cancelled, after the hacker group responsible for a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures threatened any exhibitors who chose to show the studio’s film, and invoked the 9/11 attacks to deter prospective audiences.
The group, which calls itself Guardians of Peace (GOP), released a statement online on Tuesday warning cinemagoers to avoid seeing The Interview, and advising anyone who lives near to a cinema showing the film that they should vacate their homes. “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,” the message read.
Though Sony itself did not pull the plug on the premiere, the studio told exhibitors that they were free to cancel screenings of the slapstick satire, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as hapless TV journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un.
The Interview had been expected to enjoy its east coast debut at the Sunshine Cinema in New York on Thursday evening, but Landmark, the company that owns the Manhattan theatre, cancelled the event late on Tuesday. Another US cinema chain, Carmike, announced that it had cancelled all screenings of the film, which is due for release across the US on Christmas Day.
At the Los Angeles premiere of The Interview on 11 December, Mr Rogen, who also co-directed the film, thanked Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal for “having the balls” to back it. The studio chief has been personally embarrassed by the hacks, after multiple emails from her own account were published online. Yesterday, Mr Rogen and Mr Franco both cancelled all their upcoming media engagements in support of the film.
The latest threat from the GOP comes a day after hackers leaked a scene from The Interview, depicting the death of the North Korean leader in a rocket attack. During the summer, the North Korean regime warned that the film’s release was “an act of war” that would lead to “merciless” retaliation. Although there is no firm evidence to connect North Korea to the hackers, it now seems clear The Interview provided a motive for the cyber-attack.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that there was “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres,” while the FBI said it “continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate this matter.”
On Tuesday the hackers also released a cache of some 8,000 emails from the account of Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Entertainment, describing its latest data dump as part of a “Christmas gift”. The Sony data breach is one of the largest in US corporate history. On Monday evening, two former Sony Pictures workers filed a lawsuit against the firm for failing to prevent the hack – and therefore the theft of personal and financial information from past and current employees – despite warnings that it was vulnerable to such an attack.
Meanwhile, human rights group Fighters for a Free North Korea has announced plans to airlift DVD copies of The Interview into the country by floating them over the border attached to hydrogen balloons. Thor Halvorssen, the philanthropist funding the initiative, told the Hollywood Reporter, “comedies are hands-down the most effective of counter-revolutionary devices.”
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