Major Theater Chains Drop THE INTERVIEW In Wake Of Hacker Threats

Terrorist threats work, it seems. 

It's a weird day to be an American as five major theater chains are refusing to show The Interview in the wake of vague (and, according to Homeland Security, not credible) threats from the hackers who are in the process of completely destroying Sony Pictures. While the chains will certainly cite customer safety as their main reason for kowtowing to terrorism, the truth is that they're aware that showing The Interview will keep people from coming to other movies in their theaters; nobody wants to come see Annie if they think the North Koreans are going to blow up the place (if only they knew they were sitting with the real bomb!). 

Let's skip all the talk of political precedents - they're fucking horrible, by the way, and this decision will embolden many other jerks to make threats against movies whose political content they don't like - and talk about cinematic precedents being set. It's possible that Sony could opt to release The Interview on VOD, playing to the increased public curiosity about the movie. If they do that they've moved the line in the sand when it comes to VOD windows; theater owners have been battling to keep the studios from going day-and-date with their big releases, but if theaters aren't willing to support the big releases why shouldn't the studios go to VOD? They can charge a premium price and create a real cultural moment in the process. 

A couple of years ago Universal tried to do a day-and-date VOD test with Tower Heist and the theaters rebelled against it. The studio shut down the experiment. But now that the theaters have proven they won't support the movies - and now that Sony can possibly show that premium VOD day-and-date on big titles can work - the theaters may have begun etching their own tombstones. I think the biggest theater chains in America have stepped aside and allowed the future they were blocking to come in the door. 

At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Sony just pulled the film altogether; I just saw on Twitter that a press screening in Austin has been canceled and that Sony is cutting its TV ads for the film. The VOD stuff is interesting, but I actually wonder if VOD is riskier - while I doubt these hackers will set off bombs in theaters, they could target the infrastructure of cable companies/Netflix. If the movie does end up being released, I urge you to support it at whatever theaters are showing it. If no theater near you is showing it, consider buying a ticket to a theater that is, just to throw your ten or twelve bucks behind the idea that Americans don't take commands from terrorists.