The five largest US movie theater chains won't show "The Interview" following a threat by hackers calling themselves The Guardians Of Peace (GOP).
It's the right move.
On Tuesday, GOP invoked 9/11 in its threat, implying that theaters showing "The Interview" would be attacked.
Here's that full threat:
We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
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.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.
Following the initial news, much of the kneejerk reaction on Twitter was that the theater chains are damaging freedom of speech and caving to the hackers. That's the wrong interpretation.
Whether it's an empty threat or not, the big theater chains are right to pull the movie, at least for now. It's not worth the risk in case something does happen. The safety of their customers has been threatened.
Let's be clear. The theaters aren't pulling the movie because a bunch of embarrassing emails leaked. They're pulling the movie because the hackers have threatened to harm people.
It stinks that the movie won't be in theaters. It's a loss for freedom of expression. It's a loss for all the talented people who worked hard to make the movie. No one should have to cater to a bunch of hackers who just want to cause trouble.
Still, when someone calls in a threat to a public place — a mall, a school, a theater, airport, whatever — it's taken seriously. Evacuations. Bomb sweeps. SWAT teams. Whatever. It doesn't matter how credible the threat seems. You have to take it seriously.
We know these hackers are organized. But we don't know how organized they are. Why risk it, no matter how silly the threat may seem?
This doesn't mean "The Interview" has to die. And it doesn't mean the hackers or terrorists or whatever you want to call them have to win this round. (Keep in mind, there's no real evidence that North Korea had anything to do with the Sony hacks.)
Sony can release "The Interview" online now through Crackle (its own streaming service), iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, Netflix, or the zillions of other digital media channels. It can make it cheap. It can stream it for free. It can make the movie reach way more people than it would have in theaters and really stick it to a group of anonymous cowards leaking private information in some silly mega-troll.
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