The North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the hacking attacks against Sony Pictures that spurred the studio Wednesday to cancel the theatrical release of its movie “The Interview,” U.S. intelligence sources told the New York Times. Senior officials in the Obama administration told the Times that they have yet to decide whether they will announce their accusation that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s government was connected with the attack.
The news about the North Korean connection came as Sony Pictures released a statement Wednesdaysaying that it has canceled the theatrical release of "The Interview" in the wake of an "unprecedented" hacking campaign against the film and the company. That announcement followed on the heels of news that six top theater chains in the U.S. would not show the film after the Guardians of Peace hacking group threatened the lives of anyone who goes to see it on Christmas, when it was scheduled to open.
“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 Dec. 25 theatrical release,” Sony said in the statement, which was obtained by news outlets including CNN and Variety. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of our employees and theatergoers.”
The film, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen -- whose prerelease media appearances were canceled earlier this week -- centers on a plot to assassinate Kim. The film’s premise appears to have angered the Guardians of Peace, who hacked into Sony employees’ email accounts and obtained and released embarrassing personal emails, among other actions, before releasing the threat Tuesday.
“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 threat stated. “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.”
After the threat was released, a number of theater chains, including the top five in the U.S. -- Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment --announced they would not screen the movie. “The Interview” was slated to open in 2,000 to 4,000 theaters across the nation, USA Today reported. The five chains, plus Bow Tie Cinemas, account for about 1,700 theaters, according to Entertainment Weekly.
The planned New York City premiere of the film Thursday at Manhattan’s Landmark Sunshine Cinemas also was canceled earlier this week, while the Los Angeles premiere took place without major incident last Thursday night.
Sony’s Wednesday statement is posted in full below:
“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 Dec. 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatergoers.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale -- all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”