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Cinemas discuss whether to show Sony film
From the Financial Times of Wed, 17 Dec 2014 00:13:35 GMT
The movie The Interview is set to hit theaters in October and stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as a talk-show host and his producer who, after landing an interview with Kim Jong Un, are drafted by the CIA to kill him.

US cinema chains are weighing whether to scrap screenings of The Interview, the film at the centre of the damaging Sony Pictures hacking, following a new threat from the alleged hackers that warned audiences to “Remember the 11th of September 2001”.

The latest correspondence from Guardians of the Peace, the group that has claimed responsibility for the hacking, was sent to members of the media on Tuesday. It warned of a “Christmas gift . . . at the very time and places The Interview be shown”.

The biggest chains discussed the threat at a meeting on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter. The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents the largest chains, declined to comment on the meeting.

The US Department of Homeland Security said there was no evidence of an imminent threat to cinemas. “We are still analysing the credibility of these statements, but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres within the United States,” it said in a statement.

The latest threat, which was accompanied by another batch of internal company emails, sparked an immediate response from Seth Rogen and James Franco, the stars of The Interview, who have cancelled all of their scheduled appearances to promote the film. The Interview is due to be released in the US on Christmas Day.

There is widespread suspicion that North Korea may be behind the hacking, which occurred two weeks ago and has included the revelation of pay details for top executives, Social Security numbers for large numbers of Sony Pictures employees and other personal data. The fallout from the cyber attack shows no sign of dissipating: the latest emails released on Tuesday were from Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Entertainment.

Other emails that have been released have sparked widespread embarrassment, with one exchange between Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony Pictures, and Scott Rudin including racially charged remarks about President Barack Obama’s movie preferences. Another mentioned Angelina Jolie, with Mr Rudin, the producer of films including No Country for Old Men, referring to her as a “minimally talented spoiled brat”.

We are still analysing the credibility of these statements, but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres within the United States

- Department of Homeland Security

The identity of the hackers remains unknown. However, they have repeatedly referred to The Interview, which depicts a farcical assassination attempt on Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader. North Korea complained about the film this summer in a letter to the UN, in which it accused the US of sponsoring terrorism.

The letter to Ban Ki-moon from Ja Song Nam, North Korea’s UN ambassador, said the “production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state . . . should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war”.

The threat was sufficient for the Department of Homeland Security to warn Sony Pictures about The Interview, according to a person familiar with the situation. However, it is unclear if the studio was given a formal warning about proceeding with production on the film.

The hackers’ massive data dump prompted two former Sony Pictures employees to file a class-action lawsuit against the company on Tuesday.

Sony “failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years” and “subsequently failed to timely protect confidential information of its current and former employees from lawbreaking hackers,” the complaint said.

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