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Sony Hack

Sony Cancels 'Interview' Release After Theaters Drop Out While Fox Folds Similar Movie

U.S. Officials Say North Korea Behind Sony Hack Attack 2:49

Sony is dropping its planned release of "'The Interview," the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — and at least one other Hollywood flick is dying on the vine because of the fallout.

The decision by Sony came after some of the nation's largest movie theater chains, including Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex, said they were holding back or dropping "The Interview" from screens in the aftermath of a hack that has ballooned from embarrassing disclosures for Sony Pictures executives to involve threats against theaters screening the film.

"Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business," Sony said in a statement Wednesday, saying that it reached the decision after the top cinema chains pulled out.

"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," the company said.

On Wednesday evening, NBC News also confirmed that a Gore Verbinski-directed movie starring Steve Carell and tentatively titled "Pyongyang" (after the capital of North Korea) would not be "moving forward" at Fox's New Regency studio.

Verbinski, responding to the story first reported by Deadline.com, said in a statement that the film was forced to shut down and added: "I find it ironic that fear is eliminating the possibility to tell stories that depict our ability to overcome fear."

The Sony movie portrays the assassination of the North Korean leader, and had become the topic of extensive debate, even as the perpetrators of the hack remain unknown. In an online posting Tuesday that invoked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, hackers who targeted Sony and identify themselves as the Guardians of Peace threatened action against theaters that showed the unreleased film. A Department of Homeland Security official said that there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters," but that it was aware of the threat.

U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday they believe the North Korean government was behind the hack.

"We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome," Sony said after canceling the release.

A Sony spokesperson later confirmed to NBC News the studio "has no further release plans for the film." That includes no video-on-demand release, the spokesperson said.

Theater chains pull out

The Regal Entertainment Group said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that it had decided to delay showing the movie, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, "due to the wavering support of the film ... by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats."

Cineplex said it "takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression," but was holding back on showing the movie "after careful consideration of this unprecedented and complex situation."

An official with Cinemark also said that chain had decided that "we will not exhibit this film at this time."

'The Interview' premiere canceled after new threat 2:42

ArcLight Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas and Bowtie Cinemas also said they would not screen the show on its anticipated Christmas premiere date.

The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents thousands of movie venues across the United States, released a statement saying that it was working with law enforcement. It encouraged the owners of individual cinemas to make their own decisions about screening the film.

— NBC News' James Eng and Devin Coldewey contributed to this report.