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Sony cancels 'The Interview' release: How did we get here?

Sony Pictures Entertainment has canceled its plan to release “The Interview” in theaters on Christmas Day after the hacking group that plundered the studio’s private files began issuing physical threats and major theater chains decided not to show the film.

What is 'The Interview'?

Produced by Sony, "The Interview" is a comedy about a fictional and blundering attempt to kill North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Un.

Is the film itself controversial?

Directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have said "The Interview" is clearly intended as a broad satire that lampoons American celebrity culture as much as it does North Korea.

But in June, North Korea said the movie was tantamount to "an act of war" and called on the U.S. government to block its release or face a "decisive and merciless countermeasure." Sony executives debated the risk and decided to go ahead with the film.

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When did the obvious trouble begin?

On Nov. 24, hackers revealed that they had targeted Sony in a cyberattack and shut down the studio’s computer system. The hackers then began leaking the studio’s movies, emails by executives, salary information and tens of thousands of Social Security numbers belonging to actors, contractors and employees.

On Dec. 8, the hackers posted a message demanding that Sony not show “The Interview,” referring to it as “the movie of terrorism.”

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How has the hack affected Sony?

It is embarrassing and expensive. The breach is expected to cost the studio tens of millions of dollars, and former employees have sued Sony, alleging that the studio was negligent in failing to protect their personal information. And leaked emails have exposed Sony’s inner workings, which is expected to lead to significant changes in the way Hollywood does business.

There’s also the scandal factor: Email exchanges involving Sony Pictures co-Chairman Amy Pascal contained slights against celebrities and racially insensitive remarks about President Obama. Pascal, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, has apologized, but questions remain about her future.

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What’s the biggest threat issued by the hackers?

On Tuesday, the hacking group urged people to stay away from theaters showing the film on Dec. 25 and made reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "We will clearly show it [our Christmas gift] 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," they wrote.

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How did Sony react?

On Tuesday, Sony told theater owners that if they chose not to screen “The Interview,” it would support their decision. Multiple chains opted out. On Wednesday, Sony canceled the Dec. 25 theatrical release of the film.

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Is North Korea behind the hack and threats?

Maybe. A group calling itself Guardians of Peace is taking credit, and a North Korean diplomat has denied that the country is responsible.

But last week, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said the wording of statements from North Korea’s capital indicate the country probably is behind the cyberattack. And on Wednesday, a senior official with the Obama administration said U.S. intelligence officials have linked the North Korean government to the attack.

For more news and explanations, follow @raablauren on Twitter.

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