Hackers who said they were incensed by the film attacked Sony Corp
<6758.T> last month, leaking documents that drew global headlines
and distributing unreleased films on the Internet.
Washington may soon officially announce that the North Korean
government was behind the attack, a U.S. government source said.
The $44 million raunchy comedy, "The Interview", had been set to
debut on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, on thousands of screens.
"Sony has no further release plans for the film," a Sony spokeswoman
said on Wednesday when asked whether the movie would be released
later in theaters or as video on demand.
Earlier in the day, Sony canceled next week's theatrical release,
citing decisions by several theater chains to hold off showing the
film. The hacker group that broke into Sony's computer systems had
threatened attacks on theaters that planned to show it.
North Korea has denied it was behind the hacking, but security
experts in Washington said it was an open secret Pyongyang was
"The North Koreans are probably tickled pink," said Jim Lewis, a
senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International
Studies. "Nobody has ever done anything this blatant in terms of
political manipulation. This is a new high."
Sony came under immediate criticism for the decision to pull the
"With the Sony collapse, America has lost its first cyberwar. This
is a very, very dangerous precedent," said former Republican House
of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich in a Twitter post.
However, Sony's shares closed 4.8 percent higher in Tokyo on
Thursday, outperforming the 2.3 percent gain on the Nikkei benchmark
index, as investors said there was hope the movie’s cancellation
would help bring an end to the crisis.
"By not releasing the movie, they won’t be hacked again. Investors
think that from here on, further damage probably won’t be done,"
said Makoto Kikuchi, CEO of Myojo Asset Management. "Whether that
justifies a 5 percent jump in Sony’s stock, I’m not so sure."
Macquarie analyst Damian Thong estimated last week, before the
cancellation of "The Interview", that losses from the hacking
including online leaks of other movies such as “Fury” and “Annie”,
would likely be around 10 billion yen ($84.41 million). The worst
case scenario, he said, would be an impairment of 25 billion yen.
The film industry showed support for the film in various ways.
Hollywood filmmakers and actors, many of them friends of "The
Interview" stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, also criticized the
decision made by theaters and Sony.
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Texas cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse said its Dallas-Fort Worth
theater would show the puppet-comedy "Team America: World Police" in
which a U.S. paramilitary force try to foil a terrorist plot by late
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The White House National Security Council said the United States was
investigating the Sony breach and would provide an update about who
did it at the appropriate time.
"The U.S. government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators
of this attack to justice, and we are considering a range of options
in weighing a potential response," NSC spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan
said, adding that the government was not involved with Sony's
decision to pull the film.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation warned theaters and other
businesses associated with "The Interview" on Tuesday that they
could be targeted in cyber-attacks, according a copy of the document
reviewed by Reuters.
Still, several U.S. national security officials told Reuters the
government had no credible evidence of a physical threat to
Sony said it was "deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress
the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our
The studio said it stood by the film makers of "The Interview".
(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston, Mark Hosenball in
Washington, Ritsuko Ando, Thomas Wilson and Reiji Murai in Tokyo;
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Richard Chang and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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