Shortly after the hacker group known as the Guardians of Peace (G.O.P.) issued a warning to movie goers who plan on seeing Sony Pictures' The Interview, threatening a 9/11 type of terrorist attack on movie theaters, the top five theater chains in North America announced they would either delay showing the comedy or drop it entirely. Variety now reports that Sony is mulling a premium VOD release for The Interview, which centers on a celebrity journalist (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen) being tasked with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park). While Sony still plans on making the film available to theaters when it opens on Christmas Day, with top chains Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment all deciding to either delay or nix the release altogether, a premium VOD launch could help Sony recoup its $42 million production budget, plus the undisclosed millions of dollars it has spent on promotion.
Premium VOD talks are still in very early stages at this point, and there are no formal plans in place at this time, with Sony currently weighing other options in the aftermath of this threat. Not long after the G.O.P.'s warning, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revealed in a statement that there is, "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States." Even after that statement was released, stars James Franco and Seth Rogen pulled out of all forthcoming press appearances, and Sony Pictures later canceled the New York City premiere, which was scheduled to be held tomorrow, December 17.
Sony told exhibitors that it was their choice whether or not they wanted to show The Interview, instead of the studio pulling the film altogether, which lead to numerous chains yanking the film from their schedule. Theater chains expressed concern over whether or not they would be legally liable if an attack were to happen in their establishments. There is also concern about how this will affect the overall box office during the Christmas holiday, with high-profile films such as Unbroken and Into the Woods also opening on December 25.
When Sony's network was infiltrated last month, many speculated that North Korea was behind the attack, since Kim Jong-Un himself denounced the movie back in June, while North Korean U.N. ambassador Ja Song Nam said the movie was an "act of war" back in July. North Korea denies any involvement in the attack, they have praised the G.O.P.'s actions. Yesterday's warning also came with the promise of a "Christmas gift" of leaked files that pertain to Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. We'll keep you posted with any new developments regarding The Interview's release.