18 Dec 2014

Sony cancels film release amid threats

11:30 am on 18 December 2014

Sony Pictures has cancelled the planned US release on 25 December of the film The Interview, after major cinema chains decided not to screen it.

The Interview

The promotional poster for The Interview. Photo: Supplied

The film is about a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Hackers had already carried out a cyber attack on Sony and warned the public to stay away from cinemas screening the film.

They belonged to the same group which has released emails and data stolen from Sony.

Calling themselves Guardians of Peace, the hackers mentioned the 9/11 attacks in a recent warning, claiming "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," the hacker group wrote in a message this week.

"If your house is nearby, you'd better leave," they add. "Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."

Earlier, the New York premiere of The Interview was cancelled and Sony said it understood its partners' decision.

However, in a statement it said it was "deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie".

"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," it said.

"We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatre-goers."

It added: "We stand by our film makers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

The film's stars, James Franco and Seth Rogen, had also pulled out of several media appearances including appearances on the chat shows Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Embarrassing emails

Guardians of Peace have also released a new trove of Sony company data, calling it a "Christmas gift".

A cache of company emails, social security numbers and salary details had already been released.

Two former Sony Pictures employees sued the California company for not providing adequate security to prevent the computer breach.

The studio earlier attempted to limit the damage by contacting some US news outlets to block the publication of the emails.

Some of the emails released contained embarrassing exchanges about some of Hollywood's biggest stars, among them Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Variety, the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter were informed the studio "does not consent to your possession... dissemination, publication... or making any use of the stolen information".

North Korea denied involvement in the attack, but has described it as a "righteous deed" that may have been carried out by its "supporters and sympathisers".

According to Variety's Andrew Wallenstein, however, publishing the stolen data is "problematic but necessary" because it "is in the public domain" and "unavoidable".