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Was Sony right to cancel the release of ‘The Interview’?

On Wednesday, December 17th, 2014, Sony Pictures revealed that they had cancelled the theatrical release of “The Interview”. A spokesman for Sony said that the corporation “has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business”.

The decision was made after a number of major cinema chains refused to screen the film, following pressure from an online group, who threatened the cinemas with “9/11-like attacks”. Despite the threats, the US Department of Homeland Security found “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres”.

In late November, the online group, who refer to themselves as the “Guardians of Peace”, released emails and data stolen from Sony. Such information included the fact Princess Beatrice earned $30,000 a year while working as an intern at the corporation and that Jennifer Lawrence was paid considerably less for her role in “The American Hustle”, in comparison to her male co-stars.

It comes as no surprise to see that The Interview has caused such controversy. After all, the action/comedy film, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, contains a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

However, the cancelled release of The Interview raises questions marks over the freedom of expression. Were Sony right to withdraw the release of the film?

A number of Hollywood actors were quick to express their opinions. Ben Stiller, who stars in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”, tweeted: “Really hard to believe this is the response to a threat to freedom of expression here in America”; while Steve Carell stated that it was a “sad day for creative expression”.

While the threats to cinemas may have been the tipping point for Sony in order to ensure the safety of the public, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official told NBC that they had “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres within the United States.”. There have also been questions about whether the whole thing is a “marketing stunt”, though it is increasingly looking as if this isn’t the case.

Nevertheless, the most disappointing factor to come out of the cancelled release of The Interview is the future of such films. Will filmmakers want to release controversial films if they are later forced to pull it, especially after they’ve put a lot of money into it?

It’s worth noting that The Interview cost Sony an estimated $42m (£27m) to produce, and that doesn’t take into account the film’s marketing budget. Steve Carell’s upcoming paranoid thriller “Pyongyang” about a Westerner’s experiences working in North Korea has already been scrapped amid similar fears.

Whereas it is currently unknown whether Sony will release The Interview in the future, it certainly doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing it in cinemas any time soon. That’s not to say it won’t “accidentally leak”.

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