02:11 EST, 17 December 2014
02:11 EST, 17 December 2014
By Jim Finkle and Mark Hosenball
BOSTON, Dec 16 (Reuters) – The New York premiere of “The
Interview”, a Sony Pictures comedy about the assassination of
North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, has been canceled and a
source said one theatre chain had scrapped plans to show it,
after threats from a hacking group.
The hackers, who said they were also responsible for seizing
control of Sony Corp’s computer system last month, on
Tuesday warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film
starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, and darkly reminded
moviegoers of the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United
States in 2001.
“We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places
at that time,” the hackers wrote.
“(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”
A spokeswoman for Landmark, which was to have hosted a
premiere of the film at its Sunshine Cinema in Lower East Side,
New York, on Thursday, said by email that the screening had been
canceled, but did not explain why.
A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the threat.
Sony executives had earlier told theater owners it would not
pull the film but added they would not object if they decided to
cancel screenings, according to a person familiar with the
Carmike Cinemas, operator of 278 theaters in 41
states, informed Sony late on Tuesday that it would not show the
film, the person said. Carmike executives were not immediately
available for comment on Tuesday evening, a spokesman said.
An official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) and another U.S. security official said investigations had
found nothing concrete so far to substantiate the threat.
“At this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate
an active plot against movie theaters within the United States,”
the DHS official said.
Police departments in Los Angeles and New York, however,
said they were take the warning seriously.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told a news conference
that officers would be taking extra precautions to make sure
movie theaters were “as safe as we can make them”. He said the
threats were “done to put terror” into U.S. audiences.
The North Korean government has denounced the film as
“undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war”
in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Internet news company BuzzFeed reported that Franco and
Rogen had canceled all planned media appearances on Tuesday, the
day they were scheduled to appear at a BuzzFeed event.
Representatives for the actors did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
U.S. security agencies are investigating a hacking group
that carried out the cyber attack in November that severely
damaged the movie studio’s network and published damaging
internal emails, unreleased films and employee data online. The
group published what appeared to be more internal emails on
Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of cybersecurity
firm BeyondTrust, said he believed it was the first time a film
screening had been pulled in the wake of a high-profile cyber
“If they pulled the premier because of the hacking it’s
troubling. The moment you start reacting is the moment you give
them more power,” said Maiffret.
Sony is already reeling from the disclosures in documents
released by the hackers, which have publicly exposed internal
discussions important to the company’s future.
Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of the
more than 100 gigabytes of documents that have been distributed
via the Internet. The company has confirmed that at least some
are authentic, apologizing for the loss of sensitive employee
data and some comments made by executives.
The newest file published on Tuesday appeared to be emails
from Sony studio chief Michael Lynton. Several rounds of leaks
of emails have prompted apologies for disparaging remarks that
executives made about celebrities. The leaks have included a
James Bond script, high-quality digital copies of films that
have yet to be released and private employee data.
Sony has also been sued by self-described former employees
who accuse Sony of failing to properly protect their personal
data. Sony declined comment on the lawsuit.
(Additional reporting by Supriya Kurane, Aron Ranen, Piya
Sinha-Roy, Dan Levine, Lisa Richwine and Curtis Skinner; Writing
by Peter Henderson; Editing by Grant McCool, Ken Wills, Kenneth
Maxwell and Will Waterman)
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