Theater owners are considering canceling plans to put "The Interview" on their screens in the wake of new threats by the hacking group that has unleashed a relentless cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The hacking group calling itself Guardians of Peace urged people to stay away from theaters showing the film on Dec. 25 and made reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"The world will be full of fear," the group wrote. "Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY."
The threat prompted the movie's stars, Seth Rogen and James Franco, to cancel upcoming press appearances for the movie, which depicts a fictional assasination of North Korean president Kim Jong Un.
The source of the attack has not been identified, but investigators are looking into the possibility that groups allied with North Korea are responsible.
The National Assn. of Theatre Owners on Tuesday convened a meeting to discuss the threats, said two people familiar with the meeting who were not authorized to speak publicly.
At the meeting, Sony executives told theater owners they did not have to screen the movie and that the studio would support their decision, the two people said.
A representative of the trade group declined to comment, as did representatives of the nation's top four theaters chains: Regal, AMC, Cinemark and Carmike.
Several theater owners said they planned to screen the movie, but some expressed reservations.
"At this moment we have it booked for all of our theaters," said Phil Zacheretti, president and chief executive of Phoenix Big Cinemas in Knoxville, Tenn. "Things could change in a moment's notice. It's a very serious issue. Our perspective is we usually show movies and the public can decide what they want to see. But we don't want to put anyone at risk."