Pay-TV VOD exclusive for 'The Interview'? Sony says no

With most of the large U.S. theater chains backing away from its mid-budget comedy feature The Interview amid an unprecedented global computer hacking threat, might Sony consider releasing the $42 million film via online streaming or pay-TV VOD?

No, says the embattled conglomerate, which announced Wednesday that it "has no further release plans for the film."

The scuttled premiere of the comedy, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as hapless TV journalists ordered by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was supposed to be released nationwide on Christmas Day.

However, Sony Pictures has been under an unrelenting attack from a foreign-based hacking group since late November, with the strategic release of executive emails, star salaries and movie budgets steadily bringing the entertainment conglomerate to its knees. The Asia-based attackers have reams of sensitive Sony data in their possession, and they've demanded that The Interview not be released to the public.

On Wednesday, Regal, AMC and most of the other U.S. theater chains scuttled theatrical release plans for the film, citing the group's latest threat--"Remember the 11th of September 2001," it warned--as too much risk to endure amid the busy holiday movie-going season.

"We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public," Sony said in a statement. "We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

With U.S. security officials confirming Wednesday that the attack is originating from North Korea through China, and the White House on the verge of making a public accusation, the exhibition chains and Sony faced blistering, bipartisan criticism at home.

"It wasn't the hackers who won, it was the terrorists and almost certainly the North Korean dictatorship, this was an act of war," tweeted Newt Gingrich.

"Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I'd also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers," added Michael Moore.

For more:
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this Variety story
- read this New York Times story      

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