Evan Goldberg’s comedy film The Interview, staring Seth Rogan and James Franco, has been officially cancelled. The completed picture was scheduled to premiere in the U.S. on Christmas Day, but was scrapped yesterday by Sony Pictures. This follows from an unprecedented email hack from an unknown group named “Guardians of Peace” which occurred last month. On December 16th, “9/11 style” threats were apparently issued, the hackers stating that they would attack the New York City premiere scheduled for this Thursday and any other theater that would screen the film. Although it has yet to be officially confirmed, Guardians of Peace is strongly speculated to have had ties to North Korea. The Interview has stirred controversy with Kim Jong-un’s government throughout its production, being publicly condemned by North Korean officials several times.

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Sony Pictures initially responded in stating that they would respect the wishes of any cinema that chose not to show The Interview due to these safety concerns. ArcLight Hollywood and Carmike were the first to pull the movie from their lineup yesterday. This was followed by the official cancellation of the film’s premiere today, AMC, Carmike Cinemas, Cinemark, Cineplex, Regal, and Southern Theatres additionally announcing that they would not screen it. Finally, Sony released an official statement announcing the outright cancellation of the film all together:

“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. 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. 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.”

Celebrities online have already been reacting to the announcement. Judd Apatow condemned the cancellation, calling it “disgraceful” and pointing towards a “dark future” for Hollywood. Through Twitter, he said, “This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before. Legally or illegally all will see it.”

Goldberg, Rogan, and Franco have not yet commented. It was initially speculated that The Interview would instead be released through video on demand services, DVD, and Blu-ray. However, Sony has claimed they have, “no further release plans for the film.”

We at the Punk Effect will update this story with more information as it is released in the coming days.

Update: 

In his first televised interview since the announcement, Sony CEO Michael Lynton said to CNN: “The movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short time. We were very surprised by it. “They announced that they would not carry the movie. At that point in time we had no alternative to not proceed with a theatrical release on the 25th of December.”

President Barack Obama has officially denounced Sony’s cancellation of the film, calling it “a mistake.” At a press conference, he stated: “I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

Obama said that the United States would promptly respond to the cyberattack, but did not specify how or when.

It has now been officially confirmed by the FBI that the cyberattackers were indeed North Korean. The Guardians of Peace have additionally sent two conflicting messages, one public and one private. The public message posted through Pastebin reads:

“This is GOP. You have suffered through enough threats. The Interview may release now. But be careful. September 11 may happen again if you don’t comply with the rules: Rule #1: no death scene of Kim Jong Un being too happy;  Rule #2: do not test us again; Rule #3: if you make anything else, we will be here ready to fight.”

However, Sony apparently received a private email from the Guardians with a completely different ultimatum:

“Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy. And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”

As of now, Sony has not made any comments regarding the future of The Interview.

Update #2:

Sony is now allegedly looking into alternative ways to eventually release The Interview. An unverified source has stated that they are considering a free release via Crackle, but this has not been officially verified.

However, Sony has confirmed that they will allow select independent theaters throughout the U.S. to screen The Interview on Christmas Day. This was announced by Tim League, founder of the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Subsequently, a showing in Atlanta was announced as well.

Seth Rogan favorably posted via Twitter:

“The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!”

Update #3:

Today, The Interview was released via Google Play, YouTube, and Xbox Video services. Its limited showing in select theaters on Christmas Day is still scheduled. It has been speculated that due to this VOD release, downloads will start appearing on peer-to-peer torrent sites in the coming days. As of now though, anyone can legally see the full film.

On a more humorous note, the film has been given a 9.9 IMDB score due to an influx of positive rankings and reviews from users. This should not be taken at face value, however, as The Interview holds only a 54% score from Rotten Tomatoes from professional critics. The consensus reads: “Unfortunately overshadowed by controversy (and under-screened as a result), The Interview‘s screenplay offers middling laughs bolstered by its two likable leads.”

Sources: IGN, The Huffington PostUSA Today, BBC, Google, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes