BOSTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. security officials cast doubt on a threat against theaters planning to show Sony Corp's controversial movie about an assassination of the leader of North Korea, but police across the country vowed on Tuesday to take extra precautions.
Sony executives, meanwhile, told theater owners the studio would not pull the film but added they would not object if theaters decided to cancel screenings, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Carmike Cinemas, operator of 278 theaters in 41 states, informed Sony late on Tuesday that it will not show the film, the person said. Carmike executives were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday evening, a spokesman said.
U.S. security agencies are investigating a hacking group that published what appear to be more internal emails on Tuesday and promised a "bitter fate" for those who go to see the movie, "The Interview", following a cyber attack that severely damaged movie studio's network.
An official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and another U.S. security official said investigations had found nothing concrete so far to substantiate the threat.
"At this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States," the DHS official said.
Police departments in Los Angeles and New York said they were take the warning seriously.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told a news conference that officers would be taking extra precautions to make sure movie theaters were "as safe as we can make them." He said the threats were "done to put terror" into U.S. audiences.
"People should not be afraid to go to the movies in Los Angeles; we have no credible threat," Beck said.
John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism at the New York Police Department, said the situation was similar to "some of the Bin Laden films, other controversial films where there've been threats" in the past.
A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the threat.
Sony is already reeling from the disclosures in documents released by the hackers, which have publicly exposed internal discussions important to the company's future.
Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of the more than 100 gigabytes of documents that have been distributed via the Internet. The company has confirmed that at least some are authentic, apologizing for the loss of sensitive employee data and some comments made by executives.
"The Interview," starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, is scheduled to debut in U.S. and Canadian theaters on Dec. 25.
BuzzFeed reported that Franco and Rogen had canceled all planned media appearances on Tuesday, the day they were scheduled to appear at a BuzzFeed event. Representatives for the actors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The newest file published on Tuesday appeared to be emails from Sony studio chief Michael Lynton. Several rounds of leaks of emails have prompted apologies for disparaging remarks that executives made about celebrities. The leaks have included a James Bond script, high-quality digital copies of films that have yet to be released and private employee data.
Sony has also been sued by self-described former employees who accuse Sony of failing to properly protect their personal data. Sony declined comment on the lawsuit.
(Additional reporting by Aron Ranen, Piya Sinha-Roy and Dan Levine; Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Grant McCool, Ken Wills and Kenneth Maxwell)