20 Dec 2014

Sony 'will not drop' North Korea film

5:20 pm on 20 December 2014

A cyber attack on Sony Pictures that forced the cancellation of a major film release is being seen as a serious national security matter, the US says.

Publicity posters for the film, The Interview

Hollywood actors have criticised Sony for shelving the film. Photo: AFP

It said it had only the film's Christmas Day release after cinemas pulled out.

The company said it was "surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform", the BBC reported.

US President Barack Obama said it "made a mistake" cancelling the release.

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States," he said.

Barack Obama speaking with reporters at the White House on 19 December (local time).

Barack Obama speaking with reporters at the White House on 19 December (local time). Photo: AFP

He also vowed to "respond" to the cyber-attack in a "manner that we choose".

The FBI has said that North Korea was responsible for the hack, but Pyongyang denies this. The Interview depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

'Not caved'

Responding to the president's comments, Sony Pictures chief executive and chairman Michael Lynton told CNN it had not made an error in pulling the film.

Steve Carell

Steve Carell Photo: AFP

"We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down," he said.

A Sony statement said the decision not to go ahead with the Christmas Day release was based on "the majority of the nation's theatre owners choosing not to screen the film".

"Let us be clear - the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theatres, after the theatre owners declined to show it," the statement added.

"Without theatres, we could not release it in the theatres on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

"It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."

Script details, salary data and private email correspondence were leaked in the wake of November's huge cyber attack.

Hackers then issued a warning referring to the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, saying "the world will be full of fear" if The Interview was screened.

North Korea earlier this month denied involvement in the hack - but praised the attack itself as a "righteous deed".

An article in the state-run KCNA news agency, quoting the country's top military body, said suggestions that Pyongyang was behind the attack were "wild rumour".

The movie features James Franco and Seth Rogen as two journalists who are granted an audience with Mr Kim.

The CIA then enlists the pair to assassinate him.

The film's cancelled release drew criticism in Hollywood, with some calling it an attack on the freedom of expression.

Actor George Clooney told the trade website Deadline on Thursday the film should be released online, saying Hollywood should not be threatened by North Korea.