Updated — 5 p.m. ET
Sony has decided to not release The Interview in theaters. "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," the studio said in a statement. "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."
The decision comes after the three largest theater chains in the U.S. — Regal Cinemas, AMC Theaters, and Cinemark — decided not to screen The Interview in any of their locations. The theaters made their decision in the wake of violent threats from the unidentified hacker group Guardians of Peace against The Interview and theaters that screen the James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy.
In a statement, Regal said, "Due to the wavering support of the film The Interview by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats, Regal Entertainment Group has decided to delay the opening of the film in our theatres." AMC released the following: "As friends and families make plans for the upcoming holidays, AMC has received many questions about which movies we are playing in the weeks ahead. The recent cancellation of The Interview's premiere and publicity appearances by its leading talent, and the overall confusion and uncertainty that has been created in the marketplace, brings into serious doubt whether the movie will open at all next week. At this time, to best enable AMC guests to plan their holiday movie-going with certainty and confidence, AMC is programming its theaters without The Interview."
Collectively, Regal, AMC, and Cinemark manage over 1,100 theaters, and without these big outlets, it would have been difficult for the movie to have been pushed out nationally.
Carmike Cinemas was the first chain to drop all screenings of The Interview on Tuesday, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter. The Georgia-based chain has 278 theaters in 41 states across the country. In a statement obtained by BuzzFeed News, Carmike Cinemas said: "The top priority for Carmike Cinemas is to ensure that our valued guests may enjoy the entertainment of their choosing in a safe and comfortable environment. Carmike must take threats against movie theaters very seriously and the recent unprecedented cyber-attacks against Sony Pictures are no exception. Therefore, in an abundance of caution, Carmike will delay the exhibition of The Interview. There are many additional excellent movie titles to choose from this holiday season, and we look forward to welcoming our patrons."
Next, Bow Tie Cinemas — which has 55 theaters in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, and Virginia — also pulled its screenings of The Interview, as first reported by Variety. "We at Bow Tie Cinemas are saddened and angered by recent threats of terrorism in connection with the movie, The Interview. It is our mission to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees," Bow Tie Cinemas said in a statement. "Given that the source and credibility of these threats is unknown at the time of this announcement, we have decided after careful consideration not to open The Interview on December 25, 2014 as originally planned. We hope that those responsible for this act are swiftly identified and brought to justice."
CBC News reported that Cineplex Inc, a major Canadian cinema chain, had pulled The Interview also.
On Wednesday afternoon, before Sony's decision, The National Association of Theatre Owners said individual theaters should decide at their own discretion whether or not to screening the movie. "The ability of our guests to enjoy the entertainment they choose in safety and comfort is and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. While we do not discuss security procedures or policies, NATO members are working closely with the appropriate security and law enforcement agencies. We are encouraged that the authorities have made progress in their investigation and we look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended. Until that happens, individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season experiencing the many other exciting films we have to offer," NATO said in a statement.
Sony began pulling their TV advertisements for The Interview on Wednesday, according to Deadline, while Rogen and Franco canceled all media appearances on Tuesday. The New York premiere of the movie, which was supposed to take place on Dec. 18 at the Landmark's Sunshine Cinema, had already been scrapped.
Adam B. Vary and Jaimie Etkin also contributed to this story.