Carmike Cinemas on Tuesday became the first theater chain to bail on screening The Interview, which was scheduled for release on Christmas Day. The Georgia-based theater operator runs more than 2,500 in the U.S. Carmike’s decision to pull the Sony Pictures comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came after “the same people purporting to have carried out a devastating cyber attack on the movie studio threatened to escalate to physical terrorism surrounding the planned Dec. 25 opening of the Seth Rogen comedy,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Under pressure from local theaters, Sony decided to give theater operators the option not to show the movie.
“Such a move—only nine days before a movie opens—is unprecedented in recent Hollywood history and illustrates the stakes in the ongoing attacks on the Sony Corp. unit,” according to the Journal. “Typically, studios and major theater chains work out plans on where and when a film will play months in advance and those plans can’t be changed once a studio is in the midst of a big marketing campaign.”
“An official with the Department of Homeland Security said the department was analyzing the threat but as yet had found no clear indication of an active plot against theaters,” the New York Times reports. “Tuesday’s [threat] posed an ugly dilemma for Sony and exhibitors: whether to pull ‘The Interview,’ caving to hackers who have wreaked havoc with Sony’s digital systems for weeks in an attempt to block the release, or to forge ahead, risking possible violence and potential legal liability.”