A growing number of theater owners are deciding to pull showings of "The Interview" in the wake of threats against moviegoers by the Sony hackers.
Regal Cinemas, Cinemark and AMC are among the latest theater chains to cancel the Sony film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, due to open Christmas Day.
AMC explained, "The recent cancellation of 'The Interview's' premiere and publicity appearances by its leading talent, and the overall confusion and uncertainty that has been created in the marketplace, brings into serious doubt whether the movie will open at all next week. At this time, to best enable AMC guests to plan their holiday movie-going with certainty and confidence, AMC is programming its theatres without 'The Interview.'"
Regal Entertainment Group said that due to "wavering support of the film" it has "decided to delay its opening in theaters.
Canada's dominant theater chain has also postponed its planning showings of the film. Pat Marshall, a Cineplex spokeswoman, said Wednesday that "Cineplex takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression, but we want to reassure our guests and staff that their safety and security is our No. 1 priority. We look forward to a time when this situation is resolved and those responsible are apprehended."
Carmike Cinemas, which operates 278 theaters across the country, was the first to announce it would scrap "The Interview" showings this week. Bow Tie Cinema followed suit Wednesday, also pulling the plug on the controversial comedy.
Sony Pictures Entertainment told theater owners on Tuesday that it would be supportive of their individual decisions on whether or not to show the film, which is still set for a Christmas release, according to multiple reports.
The late developments came shortly after hackers released a data dump that they're calling a "Christmas gift." Included in the latest breach are emails from Sony Pictures co-chair and CEO Michael Lynton, as well as specific threats against patrons of the comedy, which depicts an assassination attempt against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In a chilling message invoking the memory of 9/11, the hackers urged audiences to stay away from venues showing the film.
The Department of Homeland Security has said that there is no credible intelligence to indicate a threat, but is still investigating the message.
"The Interview" follows Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport who run the celebrity tabloid show "Skylark Tonight." When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.
Speculation about a North Korean link to the Sony hacking has centered on that country's angry denunciation of the film. Over the summer, North Korea warned that the film's release would be an "act of war that we will never tolerate." It said the U.S. will face "merciless" retaliation.
The film premiered in Los Angeles last week. This upcoming New York City premiere has been canceled.
The National Association of Theatre Owners also weighed in Wednesday: "Individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season experiencing the many other exciting films we have to offer," the group said in a statement.
The multiplexes that have canceled "The Interview" amount to more than 20,000 screens in North America at last check -- most of the theaters in North America. Smaller independent theaters could potentially still show the film.
The fate of the film is now very much in question. Sony could potentially release the film at a later date in theaters, try an unprecedented on-demand release or simply hold on to it.
Some in Hollywood lashed out Wednesday at the theater operators, calling their decision a capitulation to terrorists.
"It is a disgrace that these theaters are not showing 'The Interview,'" said Judd Apatow, Rogen's friend and collaborator. "Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?"