“The Interview” New York Premiere Canceled as Rival Studios Push Sony to Pull Release

Actors James Franco (L) and Seth Rogen attend the Premiere of Columbia Pictures' 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter | Getty Images

The Sony Pictures Entertainment comedy at the center of a devastating cyber attack is facing another obstacle — rival studios.

Sony reportedly told exhibitors it will proceed with plans to distribute the film, but some major Hollywood studios are maneuvering behind the scenes to elbow "The Interview" out of theaters, according to people familiar with the situation.

The other studios are concerned that hackers' threats might cause audiences to stay home during the Christmas break, a time when movie-goers typically flock to theaters, the sources said.

"The holiday movie season which runs from roughly the weekend before Thanksgiving through New Years accounts for roughly 20 percent of the total year box office," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Rentrak. "So it's a very important moviegoing period second only to the summer season."

Theater owners themselves are re-evaluating whether to screen the Seth Rogen/James Franco film "The Interview" in the wake of hackers' threat Tuesday to commit acts of violence at cinemas showing the movie.

The Landmark Theater in New York canceled Thursday's premiere, and Carmike Cinemas became the first major chain to drop the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The upscale ArcLight Cinemas followed suit, Deadline reported.

The Department of Homeland Security said there was no "credible intelligence" of a plot against movie theaters in the U.S.

Sony hackers threaten theaters

The competition for screen time during the holidays always is fierce. This year is no exception as the third installment of Warner Bros.' billion-dollar fantasy series "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies " vies for ticket sales with Disney's version of Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale musical "Into the Woods" and Oscar-hopefuls such as "Unbroken," director Angelina Jolie's biopic of World War II survivor and Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini.

Theater owners, who have supported Sony Pictures' decision not capitulate to cyber criminals' demands to withdraw the film, are re-assessing the situation, say people close to the situation.

Exhibitors are weighing whether the potential risks to its employees and the general public — no matter how remote — are worth the potential rewards of screening a comedy about an assassination plot on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

More on the Sony hack from Re/code:
Sony Hack: Here Come the Lawsuits
Ripping the Veil of Hollywood's Secrets
What the Attack Is Likely to Cost Sony

Representatives of Sony Pictures and for Rogen, one of the film's writers and directors, did not respond to requests for comment about its distribution plans for "The Interview."

Hackers' assault on Sony Pictures first came to light Nov. 24 when unknown attackers crippled its internal corporate network. Within days, attention focused on a possible connection to North Korea. The country has denounced "The Interview," calling it an "act of war." North Korea has officially denied a hand in the attack but has applauded the attackers, calling their efforts "a righteous deed."

By Dawn Chmielewski, Re/

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