Sony drops N. Korea film amid threats
SONY Pictures cancelled the release of a madcap comedy about North Korea that had triggered chilling threats from hackers, as United States investigators reportedly blamed Pyongyang for a damaging cyber raid on the movie giant.
The Hollywood studio announced the move after US theatre chains said that they would not screen The Interview, about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The dramatic action came as several US media outlets reported that investigators now believe North Korea was behind the devastating cyber attack that saw hackers gain access to a trove of internal Sony documents and unreleased movies.
Representatives for several agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, declined to comment on the reports.
"In light of the decision made by the majority of our (theatre) exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned Dec 25 theatrical release," Sony said.
"Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film," a spokesman added, suggesting that - though not confirming - the film will not even be released on DVD or in other formats.
Skittishness about attending the movie followed threats by the so-called GOP (Guardians of Peace) hacking group, which invoked the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in an ominous warning to moviegoers planning to see the film.
North Korea has denied involvement in the brazen Nov 24 cyber attack, which some experts said could possibly have been carried out by disgruntled workers or by supporters of North Korea furious over the movie.
President Barack Obama said that there was "no credible evidence" of any threats linked to movie theatres. "For now, my recommendation would be: Go to the movies," he told ABC News.
Experts said that Sony's decision sets a dangerous precedent.
"The single most disturbing aspect of this whole case is the notion that studios might cave, might surrender to lunatics on the political fringe in terms of what movies they make and what movies they release," Richard Walter of the University of California, Los Angeles Film School told AFP.
Actor Rob Lowe, among a number of stars who have small cameo roles in the movie, did not disguise his indignation at the Sony decision.
"Wow. Everyone caved. The hackers won. An utter and complete victory for them. Wow," he said.
"Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today," he added, in reference to the British leader's infamous appeasement of Hitler before World War II.