By Maya Felts
Most of the country’s largest theater chains have decided not to show Sony’s “The Interview,” according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
A spokesperson for the Malco Theater chain said they had no comment about whether the movie will be show in its theaters.
As of now on the Malco website, the movie is still listed to premier December 25.
The decision follows a strange warning on Tuesday from anonymous hackers, possibly from North Korea, that people should avoid going to theaters where “The Interview” is playing.
“The Interview” has become controversial because its plot involves the attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Sony does not plan to pull the film altogether, but the studio has indicated it won’t object if theaters decide not to show the film, a second source said.
Among the top chains that have decided to not show the movie are Regal, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, Arclight and Southern.
Another smaller chain, Bow Tie Cinemas, has also dropped its plans to show the film.
“It is our mission to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees,” the company said in a statement.
Bow Tie operates 55 theaters, mostly in the Northeast.
The film’s Los Angeles premiere went off without a hitch last week, but the New York premiere planned for Thursday was called off after the new threat on Tuesday.
Sony Pictures has been devastated by a cyber attack that appears motivated by anger over the film.
So now theater owners have to decide whether to reject the online threats and show the film, or succumb to the pressure.
The controversy raises profound questions about freedom of artistic expression — even though “The Interview” might just be a mediocre comedy.
“The possibility that people will avoid theaters altogether is the problem,” the person said. In other words, it’s not just “The Interview” that could be hurt, it’s other Christmas releases like Disney’s “Into The Woods” and Universal’s “Unbroken.”
The people insisted on anonymity because Sony has not commented publicly.
Furthermore, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “exhibitors are wary of becoming liable if they show the movie and any violence occurs.”
To many observers, however, that sounds like a far-fetched scenario.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on CNN’s “New Day” that “this is essentially a heckler’s veto” of the film.
While Sony and U.S. government officials have not explicitly accused North Korea of being behind the hacking attacks, he said this seems to be “a foreign power engaging in a cyber-attack against a private actor, a private company, in order to squelch freedom of expression.”
The FBI is investigating the hack, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that “there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.”
All the attention is causing some people to pledge to see the film.
“I am not going to let a terrorist threat shut down freedom of speech. I am going to The Interview,” screenwriter and director Judd Apatow wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.