Hackers Force Sony to Cancel Film on North Korea

Sony caves in to threats of terror attacks and cancels a comedy in which journalists are recruited to assassinate North Korea's leader.

Ben Ariel ,

Kim Jong-Un (file)
Kim Jong-Un (file)

Sony Pictures on Wednesday canceled its planned release of “The Interview”, a comedy in which a pair of hapless television journalists is recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The decision came after hackers who broke into Sony’s computers threatened terrorist attacks against theaters that played the film.

The Sony Corp. studio’s 11th-hour decision, unprecedented in the modern movie business, came after the nation’s largest theater chains all said they would not play the raunchy Seth Rogen farce set in North Korea, reported The Wall Street Journal.

“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,” Sony said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

Hackers who claimed responsibility for seizing control and leaking data from Sony's computers last month, on Tuesday warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film, and reminded moviegoers of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security dismissed the terrorist threat as lacking credibility. But theater operators nonetheless asked Sony on Tuesday to delay the film’s opening, planned for December 25, out of concern that the threats would depress box office sales across the industry during the critical holiday season.

When Sony declined, the theaters decided Wednesday morning that they wouldn’t play the movie until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) complete its probe of the matter, and maybe not even then.

Several U.S. national security officials told Reuters on Wednesday the government was working with entertainment companies to address the threat but had no credible evidence of a threat to moviegoers.

"The theaters are reacting out of fear and uncertainty," said Bruce Schneier, a cryptologist and one of the world's leading cyber security experts.