Updated from 5:45 p.m. with information about the role of North Korea's government
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After threats from a cyber hacking group that prompted top theater chains to cancel showings of "The Interview,"Sony (SNE) - Get SONY GROUP CORPORATION SPONSORED ADR Report Pictures called off its planned Dec. 25 release of the film at the center of a extensive hacking of the film studios computer network.
" 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," Sony said in a statement sent to reporters. "We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers."
Sony's decision not to move forward with the film comes after five major U.S. theater chains declined to show the "TheInterview," citing concerns about the safety of moviegoers and employees. Carmike Cinemas (CKEC) , Regal Entertainment (RGC) , A MC Entertainment Holdings (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report , Cinemark Holdings (CNK) - Get Cinemark Holdings, Inc. Report , and Cineplex Entertainment (CGX) all said that they wouldn't show the James Franco and Seth Rogan comedy about a TV crew hired to assassinate current ruler of North Korea Kim Jung Un.
U.S. intelligence officials said that the North Korean government was "centrally involved" in the recent cyber attacks on Sony, including the most recent threats, according to the New York Times. It is not known whether the White House will directly address North Korea over these acts.
The threats were made by Guardians of Peace, a group of hackers linked to a suspected North Korean group called DarkSeoul. The group released a statement admonishing Sony for the film and threatening physical harm to theatergoers.
"The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)," the group said in a statement.
An official from the Department of Homeland Security said that the agency did not have any credible evidence of any threats to theaters in the U.S., according to Variety. The group is also responsible for hacking Sony and releasing everything from embarrassing executive emails, the social security numbers of employees, and not-yet-released films such as "Annie."
Many celebrities expressed disappointment with the film's cancelation:
"Canceling "The Interview" seems like a pretty horrible precedent to set.," tweeted actor and director Zach Braff.
"THE INTERVIEW is now poised to shatter the world record for "spite viewings," comedian Patton Oswalt joked on Twitter.
" We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome," Sony added.
Sony did not say when or how the film would be released.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.