UPDATE at 2:18 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17: After many movie theaters took the film off their schedule, Sony canceled the release of The Interview. Details are at the bottom. Also: Federal authorities don't believe there's an active plot here. Details are below. First posted at 2:09 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16.
Hackers incensed over the Seth Rogen film The Interview today issued what could be considered terrorist threats by warning that a "bitter fate" would befall moviegoers who go see the comedy that's scheduled to be released Christmas Day.
It's not immediately clear how seriously the threat is being taken by authorities. The source of the Sony hack, which has generated days of headlines about the Culver City–based studio behind the movie, isn't even known: A group called Guardians of Peace has claimed responsibility and has issued statements and ultimatums in broken English, pointing to the possibility of North Korean anger over this film about a plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un.
However, there has been speculation that the sophisticated theft of emails, scripts, salary data and other information was the work of disgruntled Sony employees following a bloodbath of layoffs.
In any case, it would be hard to fathom either such faction undertaking true terror. The FBI so far has not issued any warnings to moviegoers. Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman based in L.A., told us:
We’re aware of the threat and are continuing to investigate the attack on Sony.
The hackers said this today:
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.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY.
The Hollywood Reporter and Buzzfeed today reported that The Interview's stars, Rogen and James Franco, have canceled press appearances, ostensibly over security concerns, that were scheduled for today and tomorrow.
The Thursday premiere of the film in New York was expected to go on, as scheduled, at Sunshine Cinema. But a source told The Hollywood Reporter last-minute changes were possible as a result of the threat.
UPDATE at 5:38 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16: A Department of Homeland Security official tells us there is no credible intelligence to make authorities believe that there is an active plot against American movie theaters.
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Moviegoers, however, were encouraged to take action under the advice, "If You See Something, Say Something." In other words, report suspicious activity to law enforcement, the DHS says.
UPDATE at 2:18 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17: Sony issued this statement today:
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. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.
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.