9/11-style threats prompt cancellation of NY premiere of ‘The Interview’

'Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear,' warned the so-called Guardians of Peace hacking group believed to be behind the cyber attack on Sony Pictures.
Cast members of 'The Interview' James Franco, left, and Seth Rogen at the LA premiere. The New York premiere of Sony Pictures movie about the fictional assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong-un was cancelled after further threats from a hacking group. Kevork Djansezian / Reuters
Cast members of 'The Interview' James Franco, left, and Seth Rogen at the LA premiere. The New York premiere of Sony Pictures movie about the fictional assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong-un was cancelled after further threats from a hacking group. Kevork Djansezian / Reuters

LOS ANGELES // Sony Picture’s premiere of The Interview in New York was cancelled on Wednesday following threats of violence from hackers behind a devastating cyber attack on the company.

Hackers invoked the September 11 attacks on Tuesday in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning cinema-goers not to see the film which has angered North Korea.

In a new statement cited by US media, the so-called GOP — or Guardians of Peace — hacking group announced the start of a “Christmas gift” including leaked emails from Sony boss Michael Lynton.

Specifically, it warned moviegoers against seeing the comedy about a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Pyongyang has denied it is behind the threats and hacking.

“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to,” the latest statement said, in broken English.

“Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear,” it said.

The group also warned: “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.]”

A red-carpet premiere for the film was held in Los Angeles last week, while another one was due to be shown in New York on Thursday, but Landmark Theatres announced it would cancel its debut at Sunshine Cinema in the city.

There were growing signs that the threat may work.

Carmike Cinemas — the fourth largest cinema chain in the US with interests in more than 2,000 screens — has reportedly decided not to screen the film.

Sony, which had said it would go ahead with the movie, left it to theatre managers to choose whether to show The Interview while an industry expert forecast that many would decide it was not worth the risk.

“Will theatre owners balk at booking the film? It’s actually highly possible,” said analyst Jeff Bock at box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

“No one wants another scenario like what happened with The Dark Knight Rises shooting in Colorado,” he said, referring to the July 2012 Aurora shooting, in which a gunman killed 12 and injured 70 others.

The US state department played down the threat.

“There is no credible intelligence backing this up at this point in time,” its spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The threat came a day after Sony Pictures boss Mr Lynton sought to reassure employees at a staff meeting, vowing the studio will not be destroyed by the leaks. A day before, hackers had promised a big “Christmas gift”.

“This will not take us down,” Mr Lynton told employees, adding: “You should not be worried about the future of this studio.”

The hackers have demanded that Sony stop the release of The Interview due on December 25.

The movie was originally due out in October. Speculation has grown that its release could be delayed again, although Sony has made no comment or suggestion that it would give in to the hackers’ demands.

North Korea has denied involvement in the brazen November 24 cyber attack, but praised it as a “righteous deed” potentially orchestrated by supporters furious over the movie.

Meanwhile, lawyers said they have filed two class action suits against Sony Pictures in Los Angeles.

One of the lawsuits alleges that “Sony failed to secure and protect its computer systems, servers, and databases, resulting in the release of the named plaintiffs and other class members’” personal data.

“An epic nightmare, much better suited to a cinematic thriller than to real life, is unfolding in slow motion for Sony’s current and former employees,” said the 45-page lawsuit.

* Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg

Published: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM

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