After four of the five largest movie theater chains in the country pulled The Interview amid threats of 9/11-like terrorism, Sony has canceled the film's theatrical release, which was scheduled for Christmas Day, Variety reports.
"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," the studio said in a statement. "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," the statement continues.
"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."
The latest threat from the hacker group that carried out the cyber attack, which operates under the name Guardians of Peace, hit the internet on Tuesdayand read, "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. (If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)"
On Wednesday, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, Cineplex, and AMC Entertainment all decided to delay or completely drop the Seth Rogen and James Franco film—which depicts the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—despite the Department of Homeland Security issuing a statement saying there was no evidence of an active threat against theaters or movie patrons.
Celebrities like filmmaker Judd Apatow, who has collaborated on several projects with both Rogen and Franco, fired back at the theaters for pulling the film. "I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview," Apatow tweeted. "Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?"
Apatow also pointed out the major flaw in the hackers' plan, which is that by forcing the studio to cancel the film's release, the public's interest in the film will reach an all-time high. "This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before," he said. "Legally or illegally all will see it."
Contrary to earlier reports that Sony was exploring a possible release via video-on-demand services, the studio told The Hollywood Reporter that it has "no further release plans for the film." Traditionally, movies don't hit VOD platforms until 90 days after their theatrical debut.